DATELINE: Lovecraft’s Color of Space
This little nugget was an H.P. Lovecraft short story from the 1920s that was set in Arkham, Massachusetts, and had a Boston hero. When American International took hold, they moved Arkham to England, made the story contemporary, and made a nicely filmed mystery horror.
It is not what you might expect from the Beach Blanket Bingo producers at A_I. They had Boris Karloff in 1965, still a powerful presence playing another mad scientist living in seclusion on an estate only remotely protected. No need: the townsfolk won’t go near it.
The second star is Nick Adams, unusual here as a bland leading man. It was a role dozens of actors of the era could have sleep-walked for a paycheck. He is all the more puzzling as a college friend of a bland Karloff daughter (Suzan Farmer) who is so effervescent that it defies sugar-sweeteners. She is also the epitome of obtuse.
You keep thinking Nick Adams must be up to something—and that actually helps the film and gives Karloff a young hambone who wants to equal the Master. You can’t do much better than pitting Frankenstein’s Monster against Johnny Yuma.
It was meant to be a drive-in special double-bill, which is grossly unfair to its reasonable quality.
The title seems an attempt to draw on Karloff’s Frankenstein days, but the actual story is about a meteorite and was called “The Color of Space,” making it more sci-fi than horror.
Art director of many 1960s cheap horror films, Colin Southcott set designed the English manor house of Karloff was clearly an early advocate of LSD, as the house is overwrought and overdone. And, the film really is devoid of music, making it even more creepy literally as characters clatter on the floor tiles. Hitchcock did something similar with The Birdsa year earlier.
The green phosphorous stone from outer space is kept, obviously, in the greenhouse—and it creates “a zoo from hell,” according to Nick Adams whose college science knowledge convinces him there is radiation all around the manor house—and it is dangerous and could mutate people. This is forty years before Chernobyl.
What an unusual low-budget gem.