The Dunwich Horror (1970)

In Grease, when they sang about Sandra Dee being “lousy with virginity,” I’d like to believe it was a direct reference to The Dunwich Horror, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation from AIP. In it, Dee plays Nancy Wagner, a college virgin lured to the sleepy, strange town of Dunwich by its least favorite son, the creepy-eyed Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell, Blue Velvet), sporting a porn-star moustache.

Wilbur lives with his freaky-ass grandpa in a big, spooky house. He’s also the son of the devil and has recruited Nancy as his virgin sacrifice for a ceremony that will open the gates of hell. Meanwhile, just what in the hell is that thing in Wilbur’s closet?

This could have been some half-assed, thrown-together horror effort, but surprisingly, it’s pretty classy, like Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe pictures. Although some dialogue is dry, the look and feel of Dunwich is top-notch. Die, Monster, Die!‘s Daniel Haller does a terrific job with the direction, especially in the latter half when things get really weird; the tricks he pulls with quick cuts and color flashes help intensify the film’s jolts.

Dee looks rather puffy-faced in this one, but does turn her image on its head by doing a nude scene. Stockwell pulls his patented weirdo character out of his sleeve, but hey, it works. Everything gels in this one; I find it somewhat of a minor classic. Dig that ending! —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.


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