Review of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror

May 15, 2009
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society - Dark Adventure Radio Theatre - H.P. Lovecraft's The Dunwich HorrorSFFaudio EssentialDark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dunwich Horror
Adapted by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman; from the story by H.P. Lovecraft;
Original music by Troy Sterling Nies; Performed by a full cast
1 CD or MP3 download – 75 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: HPLHS
Published: 2007
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Weird Tales / New England / Cthulhu Mythos / Yog-Sothoth / Degenerated Backwater Communities /

After their first venture into Lovecraftian audio theatre with At the Mountains of Madness in 2006, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have recently increased their efforts to bring Lovecraft back, if not to the airwaves than at least to our CD players and iPods.

The Dunwich Horror is one of the best known Lovecraft stories set in the Miskatonic Valley with its degenerate backwater folks and cultists, Lovecrafts fictional literary playground, and was first published in 1929 in Weird Tales. There is a classic 1940s radio drama version around – an episode of the famous Suspense show, now in the public domain and freely available on the internet.

The first Dark Adventure Radio Theatre production, At the Mountains of Madness, showed some dramatic weaknesses, however,  The Dunwich Horror provides a thoroughly enjoyable audio drama experience. Whilst most Lovecraft fans would want it to be as close to the original as possible (which it is) it does take into account that an audio drama has to follow different dramatic conventions to keep its listeners entertained for more than an hour. Don’t expect an action packed audioFX orgy, though. It’s a Lovecraft story after all, so there will be lots of monologues and narrated bits, all adding to the charme of the original and the faux old time radio show format that this audio drama is presented in. Incidentally, Dark Adventure Radio Theatre has refreshingly politically incorrect fake advertizing (for cigarettes!) The cast does a great job of bringing to life the varied range of characters – from backwater farmers, to New England academics. Production values are overall good and fortunately they did not go wild with freely available sound effects as some other dramas of the semi-professional kind sometimes do. A commercial publisher with bigger budget might have been able to do better, but the guys from Dark Adventure Radio Theatre did a great job with a lovingly rendered version of the Dunwich Horror that shows an eye for detail.

The Dunwhich Horror: All the goodies

As the HPLHS started off by producing Lovecraft collectibles and high-quality “authentic” props, for the Call of Cthulhu pen & paper and live roleplaying games, it is not surprising that the CD contains a lot of goodies. Namely, a map of the Dunwich area complete with a note stapled onto it, a page from the dreaded Necronomicon and one from Whateley’s diary plus a clipping from the Arkham Advertiser showing Wilbur Whateley himself – all of which are of superb quality. Whilst no one really needs any them, these props make nice gimmicks nevertheless.

For anyone who does not need a physical audio storage medium or shies the shipping and duty costs involved with a mailorder from the USA, an MP3 download is available for about half the price. The file is properly tagged but it does not contain the cover art – this is a minor flaw in all of the HPLHS’ audio dramas downloads.

Another nice extra is the freely available script which helps learners of English to follow the show (download available from the HPLHS website as a PDF)

Posted by Carsten Schmitt

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