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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Die Farbe and The Colour Out of Space

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Die Farbe (2010).

The colour, which resembled some of the bands in the meteor’s strange spectrum, was almost impossible to describe; and it was only by analogy that they called it colour at all. Its texture was glossy, and upon tapping it appeared to promise both brittleness and hollowness.

The Colour Out of Space (1927).

Die Farbe (The Colour) is a German feature film by Huan Vu based on HP Lovecraft’s tremendous short story The Colour Out of Space. Vu’s film was completed last year, and has been well-received at film festivals and by Lovecraft aficionados but I’ve been rather tardy in hearing about it. Better late than never.

Having adapted two-and-a-half stories, I tend to take a more than cursory interest in works based on Lovecraft’s fiction. One of the reasons I tackled his works in the first place was out of frustration at the apparent inability of film producers and comic artists to treat the stories as they’d been written. The Colour Out of Space is one of the masterpieces of Lovecraft’s mature period, and was the favourite of his own stories, a skilful blending of horror and science fiction in the tale of a fallen meteorite infecting a farm with an inexplicable process of decay and physical mutation. The mysterious colour is the product of some unearthly substance inside the meteorite which corresponds to no known part of the visible spectrum. This wasn’t the first story of Lovecraft’s that I read—I’d earlier found The White Ship in a ghost story anthology—but it was the first that made a serious impression when I came across it in another anthology at age 12 or 13. Since then, whenever people ask me which Lovecraft stories to read first The Colour Out of Space is always one I recommend.

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The story has been filmed before, twice as it happens, although I’ve only seen the first attempt, a lamentable AIP production from 1965 with the ludicrous title of Die, Monster, Die. This was jobbed out on the back of Roger Corman’s Poe films, with Boris Karloff in the lead and Corman’s production designer, Daniel Haller, directing. (Haller later directed the slightly better adaptation of The Dunwich Horror.) The story was shifted to England for no other reason than that’s where AIP had been making films in the past year. In place of the alien weirdness you get Boris breeding outsize vegetables then going mad at the end with an axe. If you must, this DVD site has some screen shots while over at the Groovy Age of Horror they have a comic book based on the film—an adaptation of an adaptation. “Astounding! Strange! Weird!” No, no and no. Not having seen The Curse (1987), I can’t comment on its quality or veracity although if it was any good I imagine we’d have been told about it by now.

Judging from the trailer, Die Farbe looks a lot better than most Lovecraft adaptations to date, never mind versions of this particular story. Anyone in or near Brighton (UK) can find out for themselves this week when Huan Vu’s film is screened on Thursday (the 13th) at the latest Outer Church event at Komedia. For the rest of us, the film is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Lastly, I can’t mention The Colour Out of Space without giving a nod to two of the story’s first illustrators. The great Virgil Finlay created this marvellous piece for a 1941 reprint in Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Below there’s a drawing by the most idiosyncratic of the early Lovecraft illustrators, Lee Brown Coye, part of a series of illustrations for a 1947 anthology, The Night Side, edited by August Derleth.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Cthulhu under glass
Lovecraft’s favourite artists revisited
The monstrous tome

 


 

Posted in {art}, {black and white}, {books}, {film}, {horror}, {illustrators}, {lovecraft}, {science fiction}.

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9 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Thombeau

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    That Coye illustration looks completely contemporary. I would never have thought it from the forties!

  2. #2 posted by Nick Hydra

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    I’m definately going to have to get this – it’s my favourite Lovecraft story and the first one of his I ever read. I think it was in a Peter Haining anthology called “The Ghouls” which was the stories that films had been based on – Beast fron 20000 Fathoms and The Fly were some of them. maybe even Black Sabbath?

  3. #3 posted by Nick Hydra

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    Is anyone aware of an (English language) audio book of the original story? Seriously want to sample it…

  4. #4 posted by John

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    There’s a link to a reading here which I haven’t heard.

    I sometimes wish I could remember which anthology I first found the story in but it could have been any number of things. I think it was a book in the school library, also the place where I first discovered Harlan Ellison’s work.

  5. #6 posted by Evan

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    John, thanks for posting this! The Colour Out of Space is among my favorite Lovecraft stories–among my favorite sci fi stories, period. I assign it to my students when we study setting (paired with LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas). I love how the setting itself becomes the monster.

    Like you, I’ve found Lovecraft’s translation to the screen to be hit-or-miss, even now. Die Farbe looks quite possibly better than the lamentable Cthulhu.

  6. #7 posted by Nick Hydra

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    Just came across these – Kind of Baconesque, but good.
    http://www.duchomor.com/blanka/lovecraft/index.html

  7. #8 posted by Modzilla

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    I got this on DVD at the weekend and highly recommend it. It captures Lovecraft’s tone very well and the conceit of filming in black and white so that they can use an actual colour is a great one.
    Other recent efforts that deserve your valuable time and shelfspace are a brace of shorts (about 40 mins apiece) available on DVD from the US: ‘Dirt Dauber’, from a couple of years ago is like a David Lynchian take on Lovecraft and this year’s ‘AM 1200′ in which a crooked corporate trader finds more than he bargained for whilst making a run for it through the darkest of the hillside thickets. They’re both tip top.
    More good news is the soon to come release on DVD
    of The HPLHS’ film of ‘The Whisperer In The Darkness’ which if their silent version of ‘The Call Of Cthulhu’ is anything to go by should be a hoot.

  8. #9 posted by RNB

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    Possibly you’ll like the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s adaptation a bit better:

    http://podcast.artc.org/webpage/the_colour_out_of_space

    ARTC has put this out on a CD, but it is not listed in the online catalog yet.

 


 

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