|2012 illustration by Ludvik Skopalik|
Written in March, 1927, H. P. Lovecraft's novella, The Colour Out of Space, is a science fiction/horror tale about a meteorite that lands on the Gardner farm near its well. Scientists from Miskatonic University travel to the isolated farm in the Massachusett hills to discover the meteorite has strange qualities and is shrinking. They find a clear globule they pop by accident releasing a color that lies outside the known spectrum. The well becomes infected and the water becomes insidiously poisonous.
Over the next three years, the vegetation around the farm including the animals and eventually even Nahum Gardner, his wife, and his three sons become affected by the residual effects of the Colour.
The Colour appears to be something akin to a living being inimical to terrestrial life and if you wish to read the story in its entirety, it is available here free and legal.
Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to bring the story to the silver screen, some more effective than others.
The first attempt was made in 1965, when Die, Monster, Die, directed by Daniel Haller, was released in both the United States and Great Britain. Starring Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, and Susan Farmer, the plot is based only loosely on Lovecraft's story.
The existing plot point is a radioactive meteorite lands near the mansion of Nahum Witley who discovers it has strange effects on plants and animals. Unwisely bringing it into his house, the residents began to mutate as well with predictable results and all does not end well except the hero managing to escape with Witley's beautiful daughter.
Critics did not have a lot of praise for the film, but it still deserves a fair following from those fans of early horror films, especially fans of Boris Karloff. I personally found the story interesting enough to maintain my attention and the final transformation of Witley was passably horrifying by the level of special effects available during that time period.
The second film to attempt bringing the Color to the big screen was The Curse (1987) starring Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Claude Aikens who plays the role of Nathan Crane, the stand-in for Lovecraft's Nahum Gardner. Unlike Gardner, Crane is a caricature of a religious zealot who exists only to make life miserable for Wheaton's Zack. As the entire family is composed of nothing more than bullying hypocrites, they exist only to die in hideous ways and one could care less.
Still the story is more true to Lovecraft's original story, but in my humble opinion it is not as entertaining as Die, Monster, Die in spite of the latter's shortcomings.
I confess I have no praise at all for Colour From the Dark (2008), an offering from Italian director Ivan Zuccon. This time the color is not an interstellar wanderer but is just something that dwells within the earth and ends up in the family's well. As the color begins to affect the family, crucifixes melt into sludge, and a priest who comes to bless the house meets an untimely end. As one reviewer stated, the story is not so much cosmic horror but a bad retelling of The Exorcist.
The next film to tackle Lovecraft's tale is Die Farbe (The Color). Directed by Huam Vu, I agree with S. T. Joshi that "this is the best Lovecraft film adaption ever made." The decision to set the story in Germany in the 1940s and not Arkham, Massachusetts, and film it in black and white adds to the film and does not detract. The color itself does appear as a pinkish-purple color and the contrast it makes in a black and white film when staring out of the sockets of a skull or appearing above the well is shocking with its contrast.
As of this writing, Die Farbe is available for those who have purchased Amazon Prime and I believe is worth the investment of time.
I must confess a guilty pleasure for last year's offering, The Color Out of Space starring Nicholas Cage and Joely Richardson. Taking place in the modern era, Nahum Gardner (Cage) and his wife, Theresa (Richardson) move to a farm with their three children. Set near Arkham, Massachusetts, the everpresent meteorite crashes near their well and before you know it, insects and plant life begin mutating and Cage does what Cage does best, chewing the scenery as he and his family descend into madness and body horror as the color sucks out their life and vitality. By the bye, Tommy Chong makes an appearance in the film and plays a wonderfully lunatic follower of conspiracy theories.
Though not as thoughtful or as slowly paced as Die Farbe, Richard Stanley straps the viewer in for a wild ride and a wild ride it is. Again, I believe it is well worth the investment of time in spite of its shortcomings and wanderings from the original storyline.
The best news about this moving is that the director has promised that this movie is the first of a trilogy of Lovecraft films, the next one being an adaption of The Dunwich Horror.
I can hardly wait.