Review: Dark Adventure Radio Theater
by Annie Riordan
Editor’s Note: We at BrutalAsHell.com sincerely dedicate the following review to Matt Foyer, favorite HPLHS leading man and provider of the lions share of voices you will hear on Dark Adventure Radio Theater. Mr. Foyer has recently taken quite ill and is recovering in hospital, suffering from an overabundance of standard issue hospital food and a serious lack of nurses who resemble Jenny Agutter circa 1981. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Despite the best efforts of Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, Bryan Moore and others (I really only mention Bryan here because I’m hoping that enough ass-kissing points will earn me a ride in his hearse someday), the general consensus among Lovecraft fans seems to remain that his stories are unfilmable, best kept to the printed word and not mucked up with shitty make-up or lame CGI effects. Plus, there’s that whole Hollywood tendency to update his films to more familiar modern settings and throw in all of the tits and gore that the kids seem to like, but which would have had the stoic and proper Howard rolling in his grave. Thus far, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have resisted temptation and presented their cinematic interpretations of Lovecraft’s tales as they were intended: simply and faithfully, period pieces that Howard himself might have enjoyed…if he hadn’t been his own worst critic who hated most of what he wrote, that is.
It’s doubtful that Lovecraft ever even considered the possibility of his tales being made into movies. Film was in its infancy back then, and television wouldn’t become a household staple until well after his death. Radio shows however were at their peak in the 20s and 30s, and the airwaves were filled with tales of the morbid and macabre. Lovecraft’s stories would have fit right in along with those of Poe and H.G. Wells, but fame came late to the reclusive writer, who died believing he was a failure. It may have taken 80 years for the HPLHS to prove otherwise, but their efforts are definitely better late than never.
These guys, it seems, can do no wrong, and I’m not just saying that because Sean Branney lets me beat him at Scrabble. Their film versions of both The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer In Darkness are among the most faithful cinematic adaptations to date. Every bit as faithful and fun are the Dark Adventure Radio Theater (DART) episodes, based on four Lovecraft tales: At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out Of Time and (my personal favorite) The Shadow Over Innsmouth, none of which deviate from their original source material and include all of the pops, snaps, static and cheesy tobacco endorsements of the Days Of Old.
I grew up in the 70s so I don’t know doodly squat about radio shows. I had Ultraman and The Banana Splits and Pong on Atari. Radio was for music. I remember my sister listening to “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” broadcast out of the NorCal Bay Area in the late 70s/early 80s, but that was about the upshot of my exposure. I know my Lovecraft though, and I am willing to admit that his writing style isn’t for everyone. Seriously, some of his stories are like chewing on drywall, they’re so dull and stuffy. However, weed out his antiquated vocabulary and force your way into the heart of his narratives and you will find true horror. It is here that the HPLHS really succeeds, yanking the guts out of Howard’s stories and showing us the good red stuff, giving us the raw, juicy meat of the tales and nixing the parsley. Some people – sadly – just won’t read, and said people are sure as hell not going to be enticed by the long, yawn-promising blocks of multisyllabic ramblings found on the pages of any Lovecraft collection. Do them a favor: make them listen to these shows. If that’s the only way to get them to “read” Lovecraft, then so be it.
Not being familiar with traditional Old Time Radio, I made my mom listen to all four episodes as well. She’s never read any Lovecraft, but she was around during the Golden Age of radio and still recalls Inner Sanctum, The Creaking Door, Lights Out and The Whistler with fond enthusiasm. Her opinion: the HPLHS is doing it right. She found the stories exciting and engaging. She’s even expressed an interest in borrowing a couple of my Lovecraft paperbacks! Thanks to the HPLHS for bridging the generation gap. I doubt I would ever have gotten her to watch Re-Animator.
With Howard’s 122nd birthday fast approaching in August and Halloween not far behind, I highly recommend giving these a listen. They’re perfect for those long autumn days, when twilight lingers for hours and the wind blowing in from the cemetery is just starting to get chilly. Screw those stale old slashers you pull out every year. Fuck the new Midnight Syndicate collection. Turn out the lights, turn on the fog machine and pop these into the CD player for a change. Allow yourself to be pulled back in time for an hour or so. And make sure to only smoke Fleur-Di-Lis brand cigarettes.