Lovecraft created his most endearing and enduring aberration
in a story written during the summer of 1926 called "The Call
of Cthulhu." Over the years the infamous alien has created
a weird cottage industry around itself, inspiring role playing
games (Call of Cthulhu), fanzines (Crypt Of Cthulhu, Cthulhu
Codex, Disciples Of Cthulhu), punk-rock bands (The Darkest
of The Hillside Thickets), and via August Derleth, a seemingly
endless supply of sequels (anthologies like The Mask of Cthulhu
and The Trail of Cthulhu). Cthulhu can certainly be described
as the eldritch cash cow of the modern commercial Lovecraftian
Lovecraft described the mammoth space-spawned alien as "a
pulpy, tentacled head surmounted (on) a grotesque and scaly
body with rudimentary wings . . . an octopus, a dragon, and
a human caricature," and as a "monstrous creature resembling
nothing so much as a squid, beaked and tentacled, with great
yellow eyes, and with certain abominable approximations to
the human form." A vague description that seems appropriate
for a creature whose name is such a mouthful.
Proper pronunciation of that name has been as slippery as
HPL's description. In fact, Lovecraft maintained that Cthulhu's
name couldn't be pronounced, the written form being "a fumbling
human attempt to catch the phoenetics of an absolutely non-human
word . . . (that) could never be uttered perfectly by human
throats." But that didn't stop Howard from trying. "The best
approximation one can make is to grunt, bark, or cough the
imperfectly-formed syllables Cluh-Luh with the tip of the
tongue firmly affixed to the roof of the mouth." (Not to mention
But what, do you ask, does this monster, this god, this
unearthly creation outside time and space and undreamed dimensions,
have to do with a 1990 film called Cthulhu Mansion?
In a very pronouncable word: nothing.
Cthulhu Mansion was also known as Black Magic Mansion, and
at least that title sort of describes what this detestable
movie is actually about. The film is a D-grade hack job about
a stage magician named Chanduplayed by great English
character actor Frank Finlaywho finds an old handwritten
book in a rare bookstore entitled Cthulhuand that's
where the connection with Lovecraft begins and ends.
Really, that's it.
In fact, the name of Cthulhu is never even mentioned in
the movie. We just see a few shots of the handwritten book
(perhaps a Cliff's Notes version of the Necronomicon) and
the name of Cthulhu in the wrought-iron gate leading to Chandu's
The rest of the film is a very pedestrian crime story about
a bunch of mean teens involved in coke deals and the occasional
murder, taking Finlay hostage in his own house and somehow
releasing a terrible evil that has been locked away in the
basement. One by one they die in lame, pathetic, but supposedly
horrifying and evil ways. Eventually, the magician confronts
the Satan-like evil and the movie endsbut we can't remember
any specifics, having blotted the horror from our brains like
true Lovecraftian heroes. We think the mansion is destroyedat
least we hope sobut who cares?
Cthulhu's name was nicely lettered on the old book, though
. . .