Monday, March 16, 2009

A Short (80 year old -?-) Movie Looked At.

Today, thanks to cheap video cameras and you-tube anyone can create a short, heck - - even a long, movie. But even sixty, seventy or eighty years ago, when it was expensive and a major undertaking, there were still people who made short movies purely as a labor of love, some of which never entered into the public eye, except for a few, such as the one I am about to show you, that turn up decades later on sites such as You Tube.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (or HP Lovecraft) is one of my favorite writers, even though he and I would be light years apart philosophically. Now to be perfectly frank, Lovecraft wasn't firing on all cylinders. He had problems and they frequently manifested themselves in his dreams (he had frequent nightmares) and guess what he used as source materials for his stories. His nightmares were the source of many of his stories.

The story I want to talk about and link to a short animated movie of is The Other Gods which he published in 1933 but had written almost 12 years earlier, in 1921. (The link leads to an online text of the story, which is very short - about 3 or 4 pages in a book - and only takes a couple of minutes to read.) What is curious is that the movie was made after Lovecraft wrote the story but almost a decade before it was published. I am not 100% convinced that this movie is what it purports to be: it is valid in artistic technique and cinematic technology of the time, but I'm not certain that Lovecraft had his pantheon fully developed by that time but it could well be on the up and up.

While most of Lovecraft's better known material was horror, this story is more along the lines of the fantasy genre. The story is of a priest, Barzai the Wise, who discovered where he could personally encounter his gods, found them to be weak and capable of being overcome by a mortal, but they were protected by the Gods of the Outer Hells, whom he called the Other Gods, who punished him for his comeuppance.

The story is really pretty lame but I think Lovecraft is really telling another story within this story.

His gods symbolized Cosmic principles rather than actual deities. In fact many of them were blind and mindless (making them out to not be gods at all but mere facts of reality and forces of nature.)

Yog Sothoth dwells outside of the universe and seems to be associated with knowledge that no one benefits from. He seems to be symbolic of knowledge that can only destroy.

Shub Nigurath is a perverse fertility goddess who produces life without thought or reason. She represents how Lovecraft saw biological life, a random product of the universe that exists for no purpose.

Nyarlathotep is a personification of the universe. The universe that has no use for or concern for humanity.

Azathoth is the creator and ruler of the universe. He is blind, mindless and uncaring. A true personafication of the universe without a God.

Some say that one should not look at their gods too closely, especially those who really don't believe in them but wish for them to exist. Barzai the Wise from The Other Gods chose to look closely at his gods and found them easy to overcome - - ie they weren't truly gods at all and he viewed them in contempt, but the universe, robbed of its gods, came rushing in with the mind shattering reality of what the lack of gods truly meant. As Barzai, deprived of his gods, was left at the mercy of the Outer Gods, so humanity, deprived of his gods, is left at the mercy of a cold uncaring universe that will ultimately destroy us.

The above is quote from Lovecraft's poem The Fungi From Yuggoth

While I enjoy Lovecraft's writings, I strongly disagree with his worldview. I believe that God exists and that He created life in general and man in particular for a reason and that our existence and history are headed toward a climax and that every good and bad thing that has happened will move us toward that purpose. I do not believe we are alone against a cold and uncaring universe. Lovecraft died alone in a universe that had no meaning. He believed he was doomed from birth, humanity was doomed, life on earth was doomed, the universe was doomed. He lived and died utterly without hope.

Can man survive if we collectively have such a mindset. He may have been an atheist, but he was an honest atheist who admitted the consequences of his beliefs. I believe it may have contributed to his marginal sanity. Even he viewed such knowledge as dangerous to sanity as he wrote in the introductory paragraph to one his greatest stories The Call of Cthulhu

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

He had a great mind, great imagination, and great ability. It is sad that he died without knowing true hope.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies. John 11: 25


Blogger dmarks said...

Great post. Any time I see a motivational poster of Nyarathotep, it makes my day.

I'm sure the film is a retro-fake. Something about it does not look right. But I am delighted to see this. I do have a great love of HPL's Dunsanian tales.

7:02 PM  
Blogger I.H.S. said...

Shoppie, I tell you the truth I've never even heard of this fellow, but you have peaked my interest enough for me to go on an expedition of sorts to check out some of his writings. Thank you for the education.


7:32 PM  
Blogger Z said...

"Died without hope"

12:09 AM  
Blogger christian soldier said...

Third Wave Dave has 'The Lottery' - somehow - your vid and his vids fit-mind-wise that is...

2:28 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

The clip is interesting. Looks like cut paper stop motion.

If you are interested in that rather rare form take a look at Lotte Reiniger's "Adventures of Prince Ahmed". The intricacy of the cuts and the volume of work that goes into the film are astonishing.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I also have never heard of him before, Shoprat, but you have piqued my curiosity too.

How sad to truly believe that all you are and all you will ever be is what you make of your one little life on this tiny planet!

4:17 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

All I find him much more interesting for philosophical reasons than as a horror writer, but Stephen King considers him 2nd only to Poe. Some of his stories are quite good, but so far there has not been a good movie made of his work. Some have made several semi-pornographic movies loosely based on his work but they are badly done and rarely follow his story lines. The only one I could half-way recommend is Dagon Which is based on Lovecraft's story Shadow Over Innsmouth.

dmarks and ducky. I really don't think the video is honestly presenting itself. Let's just say it doesn't ring true. The technique is definitely appropriate for the time but it's artistic style is just too art-deco, like it someone trying to fool people. Knowing Lovecraft's disdain for what was contemporary to him, I don't think he would have OKd such a thing.

7:30 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

Want to read Lovecraft? His works are in the public domain, and can be found at and elsewhere

1:20 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Found this explanatin on line:

In 1924 Peter Rhodes made a silent animated short based on the Lovecraft story, but the film was lost in 1938, at the time of Rhodes' death. In 2006 it was found and restored, the original soundtrack replaced by a new score by Keith Hardy, and introduced in H.P. Lovecraft's Horror Festival of that year. Lovecraft in person gave his permission to make the film in 1924, an exceptional case due to the disdain he had for the cinema. The movie has a technique very common in the 1920s and 1930s, using cut-out silhouettes to tell the story.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Collin said...

Lovecraft's physical health and his wretched childhood had more to do with his mental instability than any lack of faith might have done. In fact I'd go so far as to say that those factors, along with his growing up in the first really big era of atheism, the bleakness of WWI, might have led to his atheism as well.

He lived, and died, a very unhappy man. In fact, I think he exemplifies the Christian idea of Knowledge leading to disquiet and sorrow; he saw and knew too much to allow himself to believe in something that, while it may have brought him some comfort, was fundamentality untrue for him.

Many Christians have died alone and wracked with sorrow, and many atheists have died content and happy with their lives.

On a topic of less controversy, however, it never occured to me that the entities he invented might represent forces of nature. Or rather, it never occured to me that it was intentional on the part of the author or that his characters' existence at their whims was so intentionally existential. Definitely food for thought.

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