#90: CTHULHU

"Iš-Rílyeh! Cthulhu fhtagn! Iš! Iš!"

Special Guest Writer
ROBERT LAMB

Cthulhu (KhlŻl'-hloo)

In the watery ruins of Rílyeh, he sleeps a deathless sleep. We are told that, when the stars are right, terrible Cthulhu will rise from his black depths and usher in new age of darkness for the earth.

("When the stars are right" is a great time to do anything. Iím currently planning you go out and get a job, "when the stars are right.")

Imagine a creature that is man, squid, and dragon all composed into one gigantic horrifying form. That is Cthulhu; the horrible, tentacled elder god who brings madness to those who are unfortunate enough to ever glimpse him. Yep, thatís Cthulhu.

Now, most of you are probably asking at this point, "Hey nameless internet person who might very well be a sex offender or something, why donít we hear more out of this Cthulhu critter if heís so cool?"

And ignoring the sex offender comment, this is a very valid question. Why does the name Cthulhu pop up so frequently in discussions about slimy horror monsters when this so-called "Great Old One" has yet to even fight Gamera? Hell, he hasnít even kicked Mothraís ass. Even an encounter with Abbot and Costello would have leant this giant squid-god some credibility. Where did this monster come from and where have we heard his name?

Well, letís begin with Cthulhu and popular cultureÖ or semi-popular cultureóculture not quite as popular as pro-wrestling or Pokemon, but far cooler than Doctor Who and Babylon 5.

If youíre a Metallica fan, youíre probably aware of two songs that make mention of Cthulhu. One is "The Thing That Should Not Be", which is distinctly Lovecraftian and fairly Cthulhu-ish. And then there is the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu." Your guess is as good as mine as to why the Metallica boys decided to spell the big Cís name wrong. Perhaps itís a copyright thing, perhaps it was a misprint- either way, we probably shouldnít give too much thought to a band whose deepest lyrics seem to have been ripped from a Conan comic book.

As for other Cthulhu references in music, he does seem to have quite a following with European death metal bandsóall with spooky names like "Yog Sothoth," "Morphine Angel," and "Corpse Bangers Incorporated." If youíre familiar with any of these bands, itís probably best that you keep it to yourself. Basically, people like Bono and Elton John sing songs about JFK and Marilyn Monroe. The Best Cthulhu can hope for is an alcohol-induced tribute from Gwar.

But what about Cthulhu in the movies, right? Well, the old squid god has been featured in a few films. And after viewing them, itís easy to see why Cthulhu isnít interested in leaving the bottom of the ocean any time soon either. If Juan Piquer Simon (Spainís answer to Roger Corman) were to make a movie about you, youíd probably find a cave to hide in too.

Movies based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, as a rule, are usually nothing but straight cheese. Perhaps these film projects start well, with intentions of faithfully adapting a Lovecraft story for the big screenÖ and then the reality of filmmaking comes into play. The next thing you know, youíre making little compromises. Instead of a formless monster too horrible to describe, you settle for a guy in a rubber costume covered in petroleum jelly. Instead of an atmospheric 1920ís New England Setting, you end up shooting the scenes in your uncleís garageóand you eventually just go ahead and write Grandma into the plot since she keeps wandering into the shot. The next thing you know, youíre a presentation of Full Moon Entertainment.

So, the only two Cthulhu movies out there are "Necronomicon" and "Cthulhu Mansion", and I donít have to tell you they suck total ass. First, we can just skip "Cthulhu Mansion" because, beyond the title, it has just about as much to do with Cthulhu as "Breakfast at Tiffanies". "Necronomicon" on the other hand, takes the more traditional route of simply bastardizing a Lovecraft story out of all recognition. What started as an attempt to make a short film version of "The Rats in the Walls" ended up as a total celluloid mess in which Cthulhu is not only living in this guyís basement, (!) but also ends up being killed in the end by a goddamn falling chandelier (!!). Iím not sure why the director chose to kill off the Big C off with something as ludicrous as a falling chandelier, but I can only assume it was all a part of a much longer bar-fight scene that got cut. Itís worth mentioning that there was an episode of "The Real Ghostbusters" animated series entitled "Collect Call of Cthulhu." I donít quite remember the episode, but Iím sure it stands head and shoulders over the other two Cthulhu ventures.

But we still havenít gotten to the bottom of this whole Cthulhu business, have we? Besides his frequent appearances in comic books and his occasional incarnation as a beanie baby is probably best known and best appreciated from the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Having made their first appearances during the 1910ís, 20ís, and 30ís in such magazines as "Weird Tales", Lovecraftís stories are still widely read today and can be purchased at most bookstore (except the Christian Bookstores, where you can only purchase the "Precious Moments" edition of the Necronomicon). In spite of it all, most people who know and love Cthulhu probably know him from reading and not from movies and TV.

So Cthulhu manages to capture the imaginations of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi fans worldwide, despite the fact that heís yet to be prominently featured in main stream electronic media. Even in Lovecraftís Stories, Cthulhu was mentioned very rarely and was but one of the authorís many bizarre and fascinating creations. But none the less, Cthulhu remains one kick-ass Elder God and the goodwill ambassador for weird fiction.

And we all know he could kick Gameraís ass any day of the week.

"Iš-Rílyeh! Cthulhu fhtagn! Iš! Iš!"

-Robert Lamb


WEBSITES

CTHULHU COMIC BOOKS

HP LOVECRAFT.COM

CTHULHU FAQ

CTHULHU FOR PRESIDENT


Cthulhu Shopping Zone

Click Here to Buy THE CALL OF CTHULHU and other Weird Stories by HP Lovecraft $10.36  Click here to pre-order THE 2002  CALL OF CTHULHU role playing game for 30% off!

 

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