Year 1990
Studio Republic Pictures
Producer Jose D. Maesso
Director Juan Piquer Simon
Writer Juan Piquer Simon
Music Tim Souster

Frank Finlay

Paul Birchard

Brad Fisher

Marcia Layton

Melaniw Shatner

Length 95 mins

Cthulhu Mansion

‘‘ Beyond evil, Beyond terror. Beyond the gates of Hell. ’’

H.P. 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 universe.

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 your cheek.)

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 Chandu—played by great English character actor Frank Finlay—who finds an old handwritten book in a rare bookstore entitled Cthulhu—and 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 mansion.

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 ends—but we can't remember any specifics, having blotted the horror from our brains like true Lovecraftian heroes. We think the mansion is destroyed—at least we hope so—but who cares?

Cthulhu's name was nicely lettered on the old book, though . . .