CC: The Colour Out of Space - Part 2: The Curse (1987)

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

CC: The Colour Out of Space - Part 2: The Curse (1987)

We have talked about The Colour Out of Space before but it has been a while, the Mi-Go may have tried to erase your memory during the braincase transfer, and a refresher may be in order.

Lovecraft began writing "The Colour Out of Space" in March 1927, immediately after completing “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”.  As he wrote the tale, however, he was also typing the final draft of his horror fiction essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature”.  Although the author himself claimed that his inspiration was the newly constructed Scituate Reservoir in Rhode Island, Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi believes that the planned Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts must have influenced him as well.  American writer and pulp fiction enthusiast Will Murray cites paranormal investigator Charles Fort, and the "thunderstones" (lightning-drawing rocks that may have fallen from the sky) he describes in “The Book of the Damned”, as possible inspirations for the behavior of the meteorite.

Lovecraft was dismayed at the all-too human depiction of "aliens" in other works of fiction, and his goal for "Colour" was to create an entity that was truly alien.  In doing so, he drew inspiration from a number of sources describing colors outside of the visible spectrum.  Most notably, Joshi points to Hugh Elliott's “Modern Science and Materialism”, a 1919 nonfiction book that mentions the "extremely limited" senses of humans, such that of the many "aethereal waves" striking the eyes, "the majority cannot be perceived by the retina at all".  This concept had previously been used in Lovecraft's 1920 short story "From Beyond".  Completed by the end of March, "The Colour Out of Space" was first published in Hugo Gernsback's science fiction magazine Amazing Stories in September 1927.

Written in the first-person perspective of an unnamed surveyor from Boston, "The Colour Out of Space" tells the story of the narrator's attempts to uncover the secrets behind a shunned place referred to by the locals of Arkham as the "blasted heath".  Unable to garner any information from the townspeople, the protagonist seeks out an old and allegedly crazy man by the name of Ammi Pierce who relates his personal experiences with a farmer who used to live on the cursed property, Nahum Gardner.  Pierce claims that the troubles began when a meteorite crashed into Gardner's lands in June 1882.

The meteorite never cools, but begins shrinking and local scientists are unable to discern its origins.  As the stone shrinks, it leaves behind globules of colour that are referred to as such "only by analogy", as they do not fall within the range of anything known in the visible spectrum.  These remains eventually disappear but, the following season, Gardner's crops come in unnaturally large and abundantly.  When he discovers that, despite their appearance, they are inedible, he accuses the meteorite of having poisoned the soil.  Over the following year, the problem begins spreading to the surrounding vegetation and local animals, warping them in unusual ways.  The plant life around the farmhouse becomes "slightly luminous in the dark", and Gardner's wife eventually goes mad, forcing him to lock her in the attic.  During this time, Gardner begins to isolate his family from the rest of the town and Pierce slowly becomes his only contact with the outside world.

Soon after Gardner's wife becomes mad, the vegetation begins eroding into a grey powder and the water from the well becomes tainted.  One of Gardner's sons, Thaddeus, goes insane like his mother and is similarly locked in a different room in the attic.  The livestock begins turning grey and dying and, like the crops, their meat is tasteless and inedible.  Thaddeus eventually dies and Merwin, another of Gardner's sons, goes missing during an excursion to retrieve water from the well.  After two weeks of silence from Gardner, Pierce visits the farmstead and witnesses the tale's eponymous horror for the first time in the attic.  Gardner's final son, Zenas, has disappeared and the "colour" has infected Nahum's wife, whom Pierce puts out of her misery.  He then flees the decaying house as the horror destroys the last surviving resident, Nahum.

Pierce returns to the farmstead shortly after with six other men, including a doctor, who begin examining Nahum's remains.  They discover Merwin and Zenas' eroding skeletons at the bottom of the well, as well as remnants of several other creatures.  As they reflect upon their discoveries in the house, a light begins to emit from the well that eventually transforms into the "colour" and begins pouring out, spreading over everything nearby.  The men flee the house just as the horror blights the land and then shoots towards the sky.  Pierce alone turns back after the "colour" has gone and witnesses a small part of it try to follow the rest, only to fail and return to the well.  The knowledge that part of the alien still resides on earth is sufficient to alter his mental state.  When some of the men return the following day, there is nothing remaining but a dead horse and acres of grey dust, and the surrounding area is quickly abandoned by all of its remaining residents.

The Curse (1987)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Horror
  • Directed: David Keith
  • Produced:
    • Ovidio G. Assonitis 
    • Moshe Diamant 
    • Lucio Fulci 
    • Anselmo Parrinello
  • Written:
    • H.P. Lovecraft (Story "The Colour Out of Space")
    • David Chaskin (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Wil Wheaton, Claude Akins, Malcolm Danare, Cooper Huckabee, John Schneider, Amy Wheaton, Steve Carlisle, Kathleen Jordon Gregory, Hope North, Steve Davis
  • Music: Franco Micalizzi
  • Cinematography: Roberto Forges Davanzati
  • Editing: Claudio M. Cutry
  • Studio: Trans World Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Trans World Entertainment  
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment  
    • Home Box Office Home Video  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • MGM Home Entertainment  
    • Media Home Entertainment  
    • PolyGram Video  
    • Video Treasures
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 11 September 1987
  • Running Time: 92 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

The Curse (also known as The Farm or The Curse 1) is a 1987 horror film adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space directed by David Keith.  Famed Italian director Lucio Fulci was listed as a co-producer in the credits, and is said to have supervised the special gore effects in the film.  Years later, three other Euro-horror films were distributed on video by retitling them "The Curse 2", "The Curse 3" and "The Curse 4" (although they were totally unrelated to each other, or to "The Curse 1").

A meteorite lands on the property of Nathan Hayes and local physician Alan Forbes is unable to explain why the rock keeps shrinking.  He is dissuaded from contacting the authorities by Charlie Davidson, a realtor who does not want the new arrival to discourage the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from establishing a new reservoir in the area.  As the rock disappears, a glowing colour seeps out and into the ground.  Within a few weeks, the farm's crops bloom but are soon discovered to be inedible.  Shortly after, the local animals, as well as Nathan's wife, begin to go mad and a previously unknown element is discovered in the property's well.  Soon Nathan and his son Cyrus are driven insane as well and begin terrorizing those who come to the farm, including the other children Zack and Alice.  In the film's conclusion, they are saved by TVA representative Carl Willis and the house collapses. Compared to previous adaptations of the Lovecraft story this version has been considered a more faithful interpretation.

This was the directorial debut for David Keith who used his own farm in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, for the exterior scenes. The interior scenes were shot in Rome.  Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis says the film was inspired by the social crisis of the farmers during the Ronald Reagan administration in the United States during the 1980s.  Wil Wheaton and Amy Wheaton are real-life brother and sister, and Wil Wheaton once said that the only good thing about the movie was that his sister got a job on it.  Lovecraft scholar Charles P. Mitchell referred to the film as faithful to the author's original work, but claimed that "[t]he last twenty minutes of the film are so disjointed that they virtually ruin the entire film".

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