Column: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dark Adventure Radio Theater: The Call of Cthulhu

 

A few months back, right here on the good ‘ol Innsmouth Free Press, I told you all about the wonderful radio dramas being put out by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. You can find that piece here, should you need a refresher. Well the mad geniuses over at the HPLHS are back at it again, unleashing a whole new batch of radio Lovecraftian plays, and they’re starting things off with a bang by tackling Big Daddy Cthulhu, his squamous self, with “The Call of Cthulhu.”

First, let me clarify that this is a radio play, NOT an audio book. While I’ve got nothing against books on tape (Yep, showing my age with that one), one reader and a book can’t hold a candle to a fully-acted-out story with a solid cast of actors, music and sound effects. Such shows are almost completely a thing of the past, considered to be quaint little curiosities in this digital age. Thankfully, there are still a few folks out there keeping this form of entertainment alive and there are few, if any, that do it better than the HPLHS.

Now, I’m not going to tell you about the story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” because I know you’ve read it. Come on, just look at where you’re reading this review. Don’t tell me you haven’t read that story, already. But just on the off chance that you haven’t, what the hell are you waiting for? Go read it. It’s both brilliant and mandatory reading for any fan of HPL.

I will tell you that this radio play version of it remains totally faithful to the story, but it does add a few bits, namely, two characters that were not in the H.P. Lovecraft original. Now, some purists may gnash their teeth and wring their hands at such an idea, but let me save you some high blood pressure: The two new guys only serve as a framing device for the story. As such, they help transform Lovecraft’s tale into something more radio-friendly. Also, they add some humorous bits, as well. No, they don’t make fun of the source material. Remember – this play is from a society with ‘HPL’ in their name, but a few nods and winks for fans of the story are handled very well and were a welcome addition.

As for the quality of the production, it is top-notch. First, let’s talk about the acting. This play wasn’t done by a few fans using funny voices in someone’s basement. No, the leads here are honest-to-Cthulhu real actors and their quality shows throughout the story. Sure, one or two of the extras maybe sounded a bit hinky, but such missteps were both minor, and few and far between. In addition to the fine acting, there is great music aplenty in here by Troy Sterling Nies that goes a long way to set the mood, be it creepy, action-packed, or, dare I say, even whimsical. To round everything out nicely are some sound effects as good as anything Hollywood uses today. And yes, in this audio production, you can hear the actual call of Cthulhu. That’s almost worth the price of admission right there.

In addition to a great radio play, the HPLHS always loves to go one step beyond and add little extras to their releases. In this case, you get some props right out of the “Call of Cthulhu” story, like a page from Henry Wilcox’s dream journal, newspaper clippings, a photo of the strange tupilak artifact, and New Orleans police booking papers of the Cthulhu cultist, Castro. I always love these little bits. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society didn’t have to make and include these knickknacks to make a good product, but they did it, anyway, just for the love of it. A clearer sign of their devotion to the fans and the Great Old Ones would be hard to come by.

Final Verdict: Dark Adventure Radio Theater presents “The Call of Cthulhu” is, in a word, amazing. All fans of the gentleman from Providence should get it and you can get either a CD or MP3 directly from the creators from the website here. Go now. Great Cthulhu commands it!