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{Portland H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon} Workshop, Panels, and The Haunted Palace

This is a part of our series on Portland, OR’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon. Stay tuned for more coverage as the weekend goes on and my fingers get to typin’!

​​ More than just movies, the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthuluhucon features a plethora of interesting discussion revolving around the work and works inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. For me, this was one of the biggest draws of the festival—seeing top authors, artists, and filmmakers comment on one of the most important genre figures of the 20th century. 

The first panel I managed to sit in on was in the humble hall of the Hollywood Senior Center, where Victoria Price and Roger Corman appeared as guests on a live taping of Monster Kid Radio. Both guests were spritely, funny, and warm, although Price had little to say about her late father’s career in horror, excusable, of course, as she was but a child. Roger Corman, however, awed the audience with behind-the-scenes stories from his Poe films starring Price. As The Haunted Palace was showing the same night, this film was of particular interest to the panel, and Corman and company spoke at length about the writing of the film, along with how it ended up with Edgar Allen Poe’s possessive in the title, despite it being an adaptation of a Lovecraft story. 

Listening to these memories, made me realize that the modern history of art is a thing to be preserved, and that we, as fans should be taking an active role in documenting the stories behind the stories we love. Victoria Price summed it best, from something Roddy McDowell said to her as a girl: “I hope you’re listening, because nobody else is—Hollywood doesn’t know it has a history.”

Monster Kid Radio can be found here, keep an eye out for the recording of the panel in the next few weeks. 

Ross E. Lockhart, the owner and founder of perhaps the most formidable indie horror press in today’s litscape, hosted a writing workshop. Being the desperate wannabe that I was, I woke up early and made it my mission to exsanguinate Ross’s industry knowledge of storytelling for my own wicked purposes. 

In reality, it was a cozy, safe place to experiment and try new things. We selected writing prompts based on Lovecraft’s fiction and were challenged to come up with a scene. Some of us wrote on notecards, some of us on laptops—but the vibe was decidedly uncritical. This was a place to develop, to be encouraged, and for a lot of us, I think it succeeded. We were invited to read aloud if we wanted, and as the hour went on, more and more of us felt comfortable sharing our work. It was a delightful, informative start to the day that proved that sometimes all you need to write is to free yourself from your own judgement.

Word Horde is a truly awesome press and if you have any doubts at Ross’ pedigree, realize this is the man that published The Fisherman, A Sick Gray Laugh, and Memento Mori. Check out Word Horde and get clued in to the biggest books being released in horror. 

The last panel I managed to make it to was Lovecraft and Kafka hosted by Fufu Frauenwahl, A. Scott Glancy, and Cody Goodfellow. This was an incredibly insightful panel on the connections and disparities between H.P. Lovecraft and Franz Kafka. The talk was informal, but I found myself walking away with a transformed opinion of both authors. The panelists did not shy away from Lovecraft’s own problematic aspects, but what they revealed about his family and his aristocratic aspirations helped fill out the man in three dimensions. Kafka and Lovecraft shared startling similarities—both had traveling salesman as fathers, lived in the same era, and were deeply ashamed of their own work—but where Lovecraft was perhaps asexual, Kafka was decidedly not; and where Kafka chafed under the imposing order and bureacracy of his own life, Lovecraft was petrified by the disorder and chaos of his own. It was posited that perhaps both men would have been happier had they traded places—Kafka as a freewheeling American and Lovecraft as a structured European. Alas, the past is concrete, but the discussion cast both author’s in a more revealing, human light.

The big show of the day was undoubtedly The Haunted Palace, an incredibly underrated entry into the Corman-Price canon. Despite being a part of Corman’s Poe cycle, it’s actually an adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Accordingly, it has a different tone than the other Poe films, a little darker with a color palette to match. Corman talked a little about this before the film, in an interview with Victoria Price. It was an interesting talk, especially as one could see that Price was genuinely interested for personal reasons. Vincent Price is a horror star to us, but to her, he is Dad; and for her, I’m sure this was a remarkable opportunity to hear more stories about the father she clearly loved. 

The film is of course a classic, and the audience cheered and clapped with Price’s best moments. Seeing this film on such a great screen with such an enthusiastic crowd was truly a perfect experience. The Haunted Palace is unfairly forgotten and deserves to be rediscovered by modern viewers. 

More from the Lovecraft Fest is coming! If you liked this, like Signal Horizon to keep up to date on all the latest horror and sci-fi news. Check out coverage on The Color Out of Space here, and check out what I thought of my first block of shorts here.