A Lovecraftian Silent Filmgoer's Guide
Although none of Lovecraft's works were adapted for film during his lifetime, there are lots of vintage silent pictures with Lovecraftian elements such as madness, the occult, insane worshippers of the unholy, people meddling with forces they can't comprehend, boats on the ocean, and gigantic monsters killing human beings in large numbers. Numerous people have asked us what movies we watched as inspiration for our film adaptation of "The Call of Cthulhu." In answer to those questions, here is a brief guide to some classic films which you might enjoy. Clicking the title of any film should take you to its listing on the Internet Movie Database.

These films are all available on DVD, from Amazon or from Kino Video, Netflix, or perhaps from your local rental store. We recommend the Kino versions if you can get them: they tend to use better prints and better music.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Wiene

Perhaps the most famous and influential film of the German Expressionist silent era. Its highly stylized and theatrical sets were an inspiration for Wilcox's dream R'lyeh in The Call of Cthulhu.


Directed by F. W. Murnau

This spectacular film offers numerous inspirations, from its gorgeous miniature sets to its operatic depiction of alchemy and the occult. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse are a scary sight.


Directed by Fritz Lang

Another amazing and incredibly influential film. We used many of the filmmaking techniques so masterfully employed in this movie, such as forced perspective, mirror shots, and hanging foreground miniatures. We were also inspired by Lang's camera movement.


Directed by F. W. Murnau

Murnau's controversial version of the Dracula story is a favorite horror classic, with a much emulated macabre tone.


Directed by F. W. Murnau

Murnau's first film produced in America is a masterpiece. Perhaps most inspiring are its complex moving camera shots. We attempted to recreate one of them in the swamp sequence in The Call of Cthulhu, although it was ultimately cut from the fillm.

Der Müde Tod
(a.k.a. Destiny)

Directed by Fritz Lang

This early film is a study in lighting for black-and-white and the use of extremely high contrast photography. It finds a way to visualize profound and abstract ideas. Vies with Faust for the vast number of candles used on screen.

The Thief of Bagdad

Directed by Raoul Walsh

Fairbanks produced this early special effects extravaganza. We were inspired by its use of sheets of undulating fabric to represent the ocean, and by its gigantic sets. There is an underwater sequence that is quite amazing in its stagecraft.

The Lost World

Directed by Harry Hoyt

Though the technique can seem quaint today, the stop-motion animation in this film amazed and terrified audiences in 1925, many of whom were convinced the dinosaurs were real. Stop-motion master Willis O'Brien worked on this film on his way to making another classic in which gigantic creatures destroy New York: King Kong.

The Phantom of the Opera

Directed by Rupert Julian

Of all the films on this list, this is one that we know H. P. Lovecraft himself saw and greatly enjoyed, with its shadowy themes of madness and its cast-of-thousands spectacle. The black-and-white picture is tinted in many scenes, and features a sequence in early Technicolor.