Review of At the Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

SFFaudio Review

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. LovecraftDark Adventure Radio Theater: At the Mountains of Madness
Adapted by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman from H.P. Lovecraft’s original novel
1 CD – 75 minutes
Publisher: The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society
Published: 2006
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Elder Things / Antarctica / Cthulhu Mythos /

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society brought us a film last time, the 47 minute long The Call of Cthulhu. That film gained acclaim for adapting a renowned H.P. Lovecraft story into a silent-film, black and white style that was the type of films that Lovecraft watched in the 1920s. This time they have given us another classic in the form of a radio broadcast of At the Mountains of Madness in the style of the 1930s. This is brilliant work and every Lovecraft fan should buy the CD and enjoy it.

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) is one of the premiere horror writers of the Twentieth Century. His dense prose, written in a style a century out of date, told stories of cosmic horror in which people often lost their sanity. At the Mountains of Madness is Lovecraft’s longest work, just topping 40,000 words, which makes it a novel, just barely. It is his favorite of mine because of the sense of wonder it evokes. Written in 1931, his normal publisher, Weird Tales, rejected it, and five years passed before Astounding Stories published the novel. The tale describes an expedition from Miskatonic University to the Antarctica which finds the ruins of an ancient civilization and flees awful horrors that should remain undisturbed.

This radio adaptation is eerily true to the original, even though the story had to be truncated to fit the radio form. The main plot points are all included, the flavor of Lovecraft’s writing is included with direct quotes from the original, and the overall effect of reading the original is maintained. They even used the word “cyclopean” twice, always my favorite Lovecraft adjective, along with “singular.” The faux radio broadcast is authentic in even including advertisements by the sponsor, a cigarette manufacturer, Fleurs-de-Lys. Three extra items are included with the CD: a newspaper clipping about the expedition, two reproductions of photographs taken by the expedition, and a reproduction from an expedition sketchbook.

Rumors from Hollywood whisper that Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the upcoming The Hobbit) is also making a movie of our story. Sean Branney and Andrew Leman have set the standard, albeit in a different medium, that del Toro must live up to.

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has also just released another radio drama, Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dunwich Horror.

Posted by Eric Swedin

Scott D.

Reviews Editor, SFFaudio

6 thoughts to “Review of At the Mountains Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft”

  1. I have to say that I do not entirely agree with the generally positive review of the HPLHS production of At the Mountains of Madness.
    The idea of beginning with a faux radio show was fun, no doubt about that. Even the fake “live” conferences with the expedition was fun… once. It still would have been fun twice or, maybe three times. However, this goes on for about 20 minutes, if my memory serves me right. Yes, they tried to have fake authenticity by having these live radio conferences crackle and hiss and what have you. There are background noise, especially howling wind. Which made it (at least for me) *very* hard to understand and difficult to follow. First I was listening to it via speakers, then I used my very good earphones and it was still difficult. As I said, that might have been fun once, but it quickly became boring. From a dramatic point of view I think they have simply overdone it. Had it gone one for five minutes longer, I might have just turned it off. However, I persevered and after that it actually became an audio drama not just a series of fake radio moderator comments followed by long and barely intelligible parts. And, yes, after that it was quite good.
    Still, I am almost tempted to tell any listener to listen to the first couple of minutes and then simply fast-forward to the 20 (or so) minute mark.
    Oh, but the sponsor advertisment was pretty funny. Anybody else having fond memories of “Suspense” show’s Autolite spark plugs?

  2. Greetings from the frozen wastes of the subantarctic zone (Southern New Zealand)! Being a Lovecraft fan of many years I look forward with singular enthusiasm to listening to Dark Adventure Radio’s production of “At The Mountains Of Madness”.

    I would just like to mention here that Atlanta Radio Theatre Co. have also made a very good dramatisation of HPL’s novel – some 30minutes, well worth a listen.
    Karl Gillies

  3. The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company will be reprising their adaptation of ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ at DragonCon 2010 in Atlanta.

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