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Out of Mind (***¾)
The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft
Produced by: Ciné Qua Non Films, 56 mins
Director and scriptwriter: Raymond Saint-Jean

Out of Mind

Principal Cast
Christopher Heyerdahl -- H.P. Lovecraft
Art Kitching -- Randolph Carter
Peter Farbridge -- Harley Warren
Pierre Leblanc -- Friend of R. Carter
Michael Sinelnikoff -- Dr. Henry Armitage
Ratings are based on Rick Norwood's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.

Other reviews: 1, 2, 3 (in French)
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Stating that film/TV adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's works have been uneven would be a tad of an understatement. The full range of such productions are discussed in some detail here. Suffice it to say that few have captured the Lovecraftian atmosphere or rewarded us with more than a standard schlock-fest. Fewer still have made any attempt to focus on Lovecraft's early dream tales. Nonetheless, a lot of money has been thrown at Lovecraft films over the years. Now comes a small, Montreal-based film company, specializing in French language high-brow documentaries, and pulls it off. Maybe not quite the miracle of industrial training film veteran Herk Harvey, and his classic Carnival of Souls (1962), but certainly a peg up on the Hollywood-version of Lovecraft.

I first saw Out of Mind on the BRAVO! NEWSTYLEARTS CHANNEL here in Canada, but had missed the beginning. There, in what appeared to be a 30s-era newsreel, was H.P. Lovecraft, uncomfortable and uneasy, gaunt and pasty, speaking in an educated 19th century New England accent, displaying socially awkward mannerisms, and sitting at a desk talking about his work. I'd read a lot about Lovecraft, and had never heard any mention of him ever having been filmed, but the illusion was so well done, that it had me thinking, just for a second, that somebody had dug up some long-lost footage of Lovecraft. It is part of this attention to detail, for example the use of material drawn directly from Lovecraft's voluminous body of letters in the newsreel monologue that really places this portion of the film a cut above.

What is also fascinating about the film is that it seamlessly melds a documentary about Lovecraft, actual Lovecraft story segments, and a early-Lovecraft-inspired plot of its own into a fascinating immersion into the Lovecraftian world. Without being didactic, it introduces us to Lovecraft the person (which through the brilliant characterization of Christopher Heyerdahl is as close as anyone today will come to meeting H.P.L.), and to the major concepts and objects of Lovecraft's fictional world. Of course, for the Lovecraft cognoscenti, there's lots of in-jokes, a lawyer named Angells, a Professor Armitage, and so on. A couple of Old Ones or parts thereof do show up all burbling and viscous, but the filmmakers keep their on-screen time very short, presenting them rather matter-of-factly, so the movie is clearly not an attempt to gross anybody out. The plot revolves around a modern day artist who inherits a copy of the Necronomicon, reads from it (will they never learn!) and begins a series of nightmare excursions into his familial past -- to say more would spoil the best and funniest scene of the film, from the dream meeting of Carter and Lovecraft. The end of the film, while not inconsistent with the plot thread, is a bit abrupt and inconclusive about some things, but this is probably in large part due to the more art-film than Hollywood feel to the movie.

The filming locations... wow! the filmmakers obvious put a great deal of care into choosing them. Some scenes were done in the financial district of Old Montreal, some apparently around a pine plantation in the Laurentians region north of Montreal, some in an old brick-walled basement turned artist's studio. But where they filmed the scenes of Randolph Carter going to visit Prof. Armitage -- double wow! -- the house from the outside just oozes 20s old Ivy League professor's quarters... albeit I'm not sure Miskatonic University was ever admitted into the Ivy League. The inside of the house is gorgeous, oak panelling, opulent early 20th century university decor... the inset bookcases with the moldering leather bound tomes, everything just right... just as Lovecraft would have been exposed to in his time. I also appreciated the fact that, in most scenes, the filmmakers did not create the perfectly arranged home/location one sees in Hollywood films... when Carter goes down to the basement of Dr. Armitage's home, there are poorly tacked down wires sticking out from the baseboard, some old paint cans on a dusty shelf, clearly giving the impression of a lived-in home, largely done, I presume, by leaving well enough alone and simply not messing with the filming site.

The Lurker website dedicated to film and TV adaptations of Lovecraft, gives Out of Mind its highest rating, stating: "This is one of the highest ratings we have given a film yet. It is very gratifying to see a serious treatment of Lovecraft and the world he created." I heartily concur, and hope this film, originally released in 1998, gets a lot more exposure that it has so far. People at Ciné Qua Non Films directed me to the following specialized video store for orders or to pick up a copy (VHS Tape) on site:

La Boîte Noire
4450 St. Denis
Montreal, QC, Canada
H2J 2L1
Phone: (514) 287-1249
Or you can find it on on DVD.
Andrew Migliore
2626 NE 31st Avenue
Portland Oregon 97212 USA
So if you consider yourself any kind of fan of Lovecraft or the movies based on his work, do yourself a big favour and get a copy of Out of Mind, and you don't even have to study 7th century Arabic to enjoy it.

Copyright © 2002 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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