Hear H.P. Lovecraft Horror Stories Read by Roddy McDowall

“Most dae­mo­ni­a­cal of all shocks is that of the abysmal­ly unex­pect­ed and grotesque­ly unbe­liev­able,” goes a typ­i­cal line in the work of H.P. Love­craft. “Noth­ing I had before under­gone could com­pare in ter­ror with what I now saw; with the bizarre mar­vels that sight implied.” As a writer of what he called “weird fic­tion,” Love­craft spe­cial­ized in the nar­ra­tor plunged into a loss for words by the sheer incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty of that which he sees before him. But in the case of this par­tic­u­lar sen­tence, the nar­ra­tor sees not an ancient mon­ster awak­ened from its mil­len­nia of slum­ber but “noth­ing less than the sol­id ground” — or as the read­er put it, noth­ing more than the sol­id ground. But then, most of us haven’t lived our entire lives locked up high in a cas­tle.

The sto­ry is “The Out­sider,” some­thing of an out­lier in the Love­craft canon due to its out­sized pop­u­lar­i­ty as well as its Goth­ic tinge. By the author’s own admis­sion, it owes a debt to his lit­er­ary idol Edgar Allan Poe, and indeed rep­re­sents Love­craft’s “lit­er­al though uncon­scious imi­ta­tion of Poe at its very height.”

In 1926 or today, one could do much worse for a mod­el than Poe, and crit­ics have also detect­ed in “The Out­sider” the pos­si­ble influ­ence of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shel­ley, and Oscar Wilde. Any­one dar­ing to read the sto­ry aloud must thus strike a bal­ance between sev­er­al dif­fer­ent com­pet­ing tones, and few could hope to out­do Rod­dy McDowal­l’s per­for­mance on the 1966 record above. But as Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Paul Gal­lagher notes, that actor, “child star of Lassie Come Home and My Friend Flic­ka,” is “hard­ly a name one would asso­ciate with the mas­ter of the unname­able.”

Though McDowall would lat­er “star in some jol­ly decent hor­ror movies like The Leg­end of Hell House and Fright Night, he was in 1966 best known for the likes of “That Darn Cat! or Lord Love a Duck or the stage musi­cal Camelot.” In the event, McDow­ell proved “almost a per­fect choice to give life to Lovecraft’s words,” deliv­er­ing a “light boy­ish charm” com­bined with an into­na­tion that “caus­es a grow­ing dis­qui­et and a dread­ful sense of unease,” alto­geth­er suit­able for the work of “the weird and reclu­sive Love­craft.” He also brings to the role the kind of faint, unex­pect­ed­ly refined men­ace that would make him famous as Cor­nelius and Cae­sar in the Plan­et of the Apes films. After “The Out­sider” McDowall reads Love­caft’s ear­li­er sto­ry “The Hound,” and sure­ly his voice is just the one in which Love­craft fans would want to hear spo­ken, for the very first time in Love­craft’s oeu­vre, the name of the Necro­nom­i­con.

Be sure to explore out col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

H.P. Lovecraft’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ries Free Online: Down­load Audio Books, eBooks & More

23 Hours of H.P. Love­craft Sto­ries: Hear Read­ings & Drama­ti­za­tions of “The Call of Cthul­hu,” “The Shad­ow Over Inns­mouth,” & Oth­er Weird Tales

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to H.P. Love­craft and How He Invent­ed a New Goth­ic Hor­ror

H.P. Lovecraft’s Mon­ster Draw­ings: Cthul­hu & Oth­er Crea­tures from the “Bound­less and Hideous Unknown”

H.P. Love­craft Gives Five Tips for Writ­ing a Hor­ror Sto­ry, or Any Piece of “Weird Fic­tion”

Mak­ing The Plan­et of the Apes: Rod­dy McDowall’s Home Movies and a 1966 Make­up Test

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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