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on May 19, 2009
It seems to have escaped another reviewer here that "Dreams of Cthulhu: The Rough Magik Initiative" is the second entry in the Lovecraft Collection, an anthology that brings together disparate film elements by unconnected film makers in the Lovecraft mythos.
This collection begins with "Rough Magik", an unaired television pilot. Paul Darrow (Doctor Who, Blake's Seven, Hammer House of Horror) really shines as the lead character, Mr. Moon, in a story about The Night Scholars, a special division of the military, bent on winning the war between the dreamers, and The Sleeping God, who is waking. The Rough Magik Initiative is the operation that the military uses, hoping to seek out dreamers before the Sleeping God makes them do bad, gruesome things.
Unfortunately, there are more dreamers than Mr. Moon and the Night Scholars can handle, and if the TV series had been picked up, this would have been a great format to follow their efforts on a weekly basis where just about anything could happen.
Shot in 1999, Rough Magik predates Torchwood, Threshold, Primeval and many other shows that, other than the H.P. Lovecraft elements, basically follow the same lines. I don't know that there will ever be a good time for an episodic series based on graphic Lovecraftian horror, but had it gotten a proper budget, with Paul Darrow attached to it, I think Rough Magik would have been as good as any of the other genre shows that DID see air.
It reminds me of another unaired pilot, Global Frequency, and proves that it was before its time in that so many other shows in the same vein became successful afterward.
Other entries on the disk are short films "Experiment 17" and "Experiment 18", "The Terrible Old Man", and "From Beyond" (not to be confused with the feature film of the same name).
Also to be found are short interviews with some of the film makers and a great commentary track for "Rough Magik" by the writer/director that really helps put the work in perspective.
It's a rough production, and even he acknowledges that, but I think with the backing of the right studio (they approached the BBC, who later did go on to make some of the aforementioned shows), Rough Magik would have been a daring, provocative television series that could truly have explored Lovecraft's darker elements on the screen in a visceral, creepy way.
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on December 29, 2011
Not every good film needs to be GWTW just as every good painting need not be the Sistine ceiling. Ab excellent effort that preserves the spookiness and uncanny premises of the Cthulu ethos. The Falklands bits are well-done on a shoestring and the intel types are appropriately unconcerned with the welfare of underlings - the Mission is everything. A very clever transition from the 1920's-30's to the 1990's Tapas!!
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This film is OK, but it could have been much better. It seems sort of fragmented and it was tough to follow the storyline. What astounding evidence was there that Cthulhu was waking? Also, Why did they give BRITISH soldiers AMERICAN suplus Vietnam era helmets for the Falklands scenes? Sloppy disappointment.
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on February 3, 2009
I'm somewhat at a loss here. From the glowing reviews of this DVD I'd read on Netflix I had expected something better--or at least something half way decent. What I got was a confused, jumbled, mess of a story that looked as though it had been made for television. Worse yet it seemed to assume that I was familiar with the backstory and so I was plopped down in the middle of all this with nothing to go on. It seemed as if it were part of an on going series. At first it appeared as if it would be about ritual sacrifices that were taking place in order to bring back the great god Cthulhu, but then it switched tracks and decided that it was going to be about an organization that had been formed to oppose the Cthulhu cults and then it changed its mind yet again to tell (in flashback!) the story of a psychiatrist's encounter with an ancient Cthulhu worshipper during the Falkland Islands War! Thank God it was a short film or it might have become REALLY confusing!

There were several other short films included on the DVD that varied in quality, half of which suffered from the usual problems film makers encounter when they try to update Lovecraft. THE TERRIBLE OLD MAN is a terrible failure and the less said about it the better. EXPERIMENT 16 and EXPERIMENT 17 (or was it 17 and 18?) fared better if only because they were shorter. They dealt with Nazi experiments with the Necronomicon. The most successful was FROM BEYOND which began with a voice-over telling of the protagonist's history with Crawford Tillingast in very Lovecraftian language. But those brief bright spots don't really justify recommending this to anyone other than devout Lovecraft fans.

Do not mistake DREAMS OF CTHULHU for THE CALL OF CTHULHU which was produced by the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society. This DVD is as different from that one as night is from day. Although both fall into the realm of independent amature productions with extremely low budgets the comparisons stop there. CALL OF CTHULHU is extremely well thought out, has excellent production values, and surprisingly good actors in all of the major parts. This film has absolutely none of those virtues. CALL OF CTHULHU is a silent film shot in black and white to resemble a film a film which might have been made during Lovecraft's lifetime, DREAMS OF CUTHULHU is in washed out color for the most part although a couple of the short films are in black and white. CALL OF CUTHULHU is an enormously entertaining film that most genre fans will enjoy. It featured wonderful stop-motion animation and mind-bending sets. DREAMS OF CTHULHU is a creatively bankrupt effort that is recommend for Lovecraft completists only.
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on May 23, 2015
**** 4 Stars **** Yes, 4 stars because I must applaud any effort to bring Lovecraft to the screen. There are four short subjects here, and one, I dunno, feature selection? The longish one is called "The Rough Magik," but I feel the best is the short, "From Beyond" ... it did better than the others in offering us a visual clue as to what Lovecraft may have had in mind. But let's be honest: Lovecraft is very hard to get to the screen. As of 2015, Guillermo del Toro has been trying for 16 years to get a 'green light' for "At The Mountains Of Madness," and can't get it done. As of the present, he has a 'maybe' for 2018, if he can make it PG-13 (he had always marketed the concept as 'R'). Frankly, I'd rather he just give it up than give us a 'Pacific Rim' take on Lovecraft's only novella, and probably HPL's greatest work. So ... given the state of mainstream U.S. films, our best hope for a really good Lovecraft film are indie directors and producers. The 5 films here give at least a hint of what some extra money might do ... one day. The passion is surely there.
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on June 29, 2016
Excellent Collection of H. P. Lovecraftian story's.
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