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Archive for the tag “Edgar Allan Poe”

Masque of the Red Death

SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

The Masque of the Red Death, today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, is one of eight films that Roger Corman produced and directed in the 1960s based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. All but one of the films starred Vincent Price, the lone exception being Premature Burial from 1963 with Ray Milland. The Masque of the Red Death, followed closely by The Tomb of Ligeia, closed out Corman’s Poe series in 1964. Although the series remained popular at the box office, Corman felt he had run out of ideas on how to present Poe creatively, and decided after these final two features to move onto other themes and genres.

That’s unfortunate because Red Death and Ligeia rank among Corman’s best Poe’s adaptations. They certainly are the most stylish and visually impressive. Corman, for the first time, shot on location in Great Britain, rather than stateside. For Red Death, he collaborated with a dazzling, young cinematographer, Nicolas Roeg, who would later shoot Fahrenheit 451, before directing Mick Jagger in Performance and David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In an artistic conceit that works amazingly well, Corman and Roeg chose to use the most brilliant, psychedelic colors for this story, rather than the drab and dark hues so often associated with films based on Poe’s tales and poems.  As Irish blogger James Grancey has written, “The film unfolds within a number of opulently lit sets and thematically coloured rooms and chambers. This must surely be one of the most beautiful and lushly filmed horror movies and recalls the eerie beauty of work by the likes of Mario Bava and, eventually, Dario Argento.”

Price, as always, plays a villain, the debauched, power-mad, Satan-worshiping Prince Prospero. He not only mistreats and plunders from the peasants under his command, but also takes great amusement in demeaning the nobles who have gathered around him for protection.  Prospero has claimed a ravishing, redheaded Christian girl (Jane Asher) as his latest trophy and fully intends to corrupt her soul, defile her body and then offer her up as a bride to the Master. But while he’s involved in palace intrigues, revelries and masked balls, a plague has spread across the countryside, threatening the lives of thousands, even the wayward fools inside the castle who believe they are immune to its ravages.

The Masque of the Red Death is essentially a morality tale, pitting the pious against the profane, the good versus the evil, the rich against the poor. In the end, none can escape a macabre dance with Death in a work that is as philosophically rich and symbolic as anything by Ingmar Bergman and reminiscent of his The Seventh Seal with multiple Grim Reapers imposing a swift, merciless justice.

Enjoy, and do return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

The Gold Bug

A SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

The Gold Bug is one of the least adapted Poe stories, which is ironic because it was the most widely read of his tales during his lifetime and earned him the most money — $100 when it won the grand prize in a writing contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. This ABC Weekend Special version appeared in 1980 and merits a second look. Besides a fine performance by a 12-year-old Anthony Michael Hall, making his screen debut, the drama also benefits from the eerie presence of Geoffrey Holder and Roberts Blossom as obsessed treasure hunters. It’s given an atmospheric treatment by British-born director Robert Fuest, who previously worked with Vincent Price in the Dr. Phibes horror movies.

The Raven

A SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

Four different dramatic readings of Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven,” one that catapulted him to fame upon its January 1845 publication in a newspaper. But while he achieved success from the poem, it earned Poe only $14 in pay.  These readings are by Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, James Earl Jones and Christopher Walken, respectively.

Vincent

SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

Even though it clocks in at less than six minutes, this 1982 stop-motion animation by Tim Burton remains one of his most  endearing and imaginative works. Vincent Price narrates the story of a precocious, young boy with an active fantasy life who avidly reads Edgar Allan Poe and dreams of growing up to become…Vincent Price.

The Tell-Tale Heart

SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

James Mason delivers the chilling first-person narration for this dark, visually stylish 1953 animation. It’s based on Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of a deranged lodger who becomes obsessed with killing his landlord, believing him to possess an “evil eye.”  Made by the UPA, the same studio that gave us Mr. Magoo, this short was Oscar-nominated for best animation, but also was the first cartoon to receive an X-rated (suitable for adults only) under the British Board of Film Censors classification system.

Tales of Mystery

SALUTE TO EDGAR ALLAN POE

Edgar Allan Poe endured many tragedies and hardships in life, but now he faces an even more humiliating affront — having to audition for his own TV show. It’s enough to drive any self-respecting author to drink.

Jose Alejandro Acosta created this animated short a decade ago, and just recently revived the project by launching work on a pilot Tales of Mystery episode. Visit his website at http://doubleraven.smugmug.com/

Interesting aside: The portrait hanging by the door that Poe knocks off the wall is of John Allan, Poe’s foster father with whom he had a cold, often turbulent relationship.

Stay tuned through the week as we continue to salute Edgar Allan Poe. Hollywood, in its infinite banality, has given us a biopic of Jacqueline Susann, who Truman Capote described as “a truck driver in drag,” but never one of Edgar Allan Poe.

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