Thursday, November 14, 2013

Frankenstein Meets Cthulhu?

   Over on Facebook, Dan Cziraky put up a link to an article about the 1939 Universal Horror movie, The Son of Frankenstein, and said that Lovecraft's Necronomicon had been mentioned in the original shooting script of the film. That struck me as a bit odd, since in 1939 Lovecraft had only been dead a short time and was mostly known to aficionados of weird fiction. The general public didn't know from Lovecraft. So I did a little digging on the scriptwriter, a man named Wyllis Cooper.
   Turns out that Cooper was the creator of the famous radio Horror series LIGHTS OUT!, and that he had been interested in horror for a long time. As early as 1932, he had created and written for a radio program called THE WITCHING HOUR. The first episode of this short lived series was apparently so scary that the series was briefly canceled and then returned in a toned down form.
   In 1934 Cooper created LIGHTS OUT! for which he wrote many of the scripts and sometimes even directed the episodes. One wonders if Cooper just enjoyed reading horror, or if he came across Lovecraft while looking for stories to adapt for his series. (He'd have been disappointed in this, since HPL didn't release radio adaptation rights to his stories.) In any case, it explains how he could have known about the Necronomicon long before Cthulhu became a household word. Here's the part of the script with the Necronomicon:

   18
INT. LIVING-ROOM - WOLF - CLOSE SHOT

at the bookcase. He fingers the books on the shelves.

            WOLF
        (over his shoulder)
    Even my father's books haven't
    been disturbed.
        (he blows at them; a small
        cloud of dust arises)
    Definitely.
        (he touches the books
        as he names them)
    Agricola's De Re Metallica... the
    Necronomicon ... Roger Bacon ...
        (he shuts his eyes as he
        touches one book after
        another, naming them)
    Euclid ... Paracelsus...
    FitzJames O'Brien ... Avicenna!
        (as he speaks the last
        name, he pulls the book
        from the shelf, opens his
        eyes)
    See -- I haven't forgotten!

Pretty interesting, eh? I've lost count of how many scenes I've seen like this in various Cthulhu mythos pastiches, where one or more of the blasphemous books of the mythos get a mention in passing. Written a couple myself, come to think of it. The article goes on to say that the script was virtually ignored by the director, so this and many other things never made it into the movie. Too bad. Would have been cool to have something of Lovecraft's mentioned in the movies that early on.

1 comment:

Paul R. McNamee said...

That is some fascinating lost Hollywood lore!