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Tales of Poe

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Mark Kermode | 09:55 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

This week John Cusack is our guest on the 5 live Film Review Show talking about his new film The Raven in which he plays the writer Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's work has been adapted for the screen on countless occasions but which is the best of the bunch?

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  • Comment number 1.

    For me its the 1991 Stuart Gordon version of the Pit and the Pendulum, Gordon is for me one of the most undervalued Horror directors. And this was the first film of his to cross my path, it made such a strong impression I had to track down all his back catalogue. If there is a Director who truly understands the subtle nuances of Poe it has to be Gordon.

  • Comment number 2.

    For me it has to be The Simpsons doing 'The Raven'.

  • Comment number 3.

    Its not a movie adaptation but I have always loved the Simpson's version of The Raven from the first Treehouse oh Horror episode, featuring an excellent rendition by James Earl Jones.

  • Comment number 4.

    Cheekily I'm going to mention "Edgar Allan Poe's The Haunted Palace" which of course isn't Edgar Allen Poe (apart from the reading of the poem) and is in fact H.P. Lovecraft. But it's interesting why it's called that. Back in 1963 Lovecraft wasn't a name most people new; but Poe... and American International Pictures wasn't going to take any chances (even if Roger Corman would).

    Back to actual Poe movies I have a real fondness for the 1964 "The Masque of the Red Death" possibly more because it was one of the first Poe stories that I had seen on film, than anything else, but I also love the egalitarian bleakness of the message(I'd bet Dr K enjoys it)... it doesn't matter how rich or privileged you are you cant cheat Death.

  • Comment number 5.

    One of my favourite films is 'Ravenous', and I think it's at least partially inspired by Poe's blend of gothic horror. Blackly comic, set in the 1840s about cannibals in the remote mountains of western America, I never tire of watching it. And somehow I'm always feeling very peckish afterwards...

  • Comment number 6.

    For me it has to be Corman's "House of Usher". Vincent Price is incredible as the tortured Roderick Usher, the whole thing looks gorgeous and the themes of decay, incest and degradation are all retained and subtly implied through Richard Matheson's excellent script. I love all the AIP Poe films, but this one really creeped me out.

    Stuart Gordon's short film "The Black Cat", in which Jeffrey Combs puts in a mesmerising performance as Poe, is terrific as well, and actually spawned a stage production which was really well recieved.

    Goes without saying but I absolutely love Poe. Along with Lovecraft and MR James he's just about one of the finest horror writers who ever lived.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its been said: The Simpsons does The Raven which is just fantastic and is the whole poem I believe. Also in the first Treehouse of Horror they did a haunted house mash up segment which contains some elements from The Fall of the House of Usher.

    On the big screen I'm not sure Poe has yet been adequately served, his writing is fantastic yet most of the movies are pure schlock or B-movies, Poe's prose is deserving of high calibre, big budget productions with talented writers/directors on board.

    I'd like to see a really good version of The Fall of the House of Usher, even if its just a short film for television, that's my favourite of his work and I think it could be turned into a really powerful film.

  • Comment number 8.

    The Bloody Hands from 'The Fall of the House of Usher", at the age of 15 that really freaked me out.

  • Comment number 9.

    "Take this kiss upon the brow!
    And, in parting from you now,
    Thus much let me avow-
    You are not wrong, who deem
    That my days have been a dream;
    Yet if hope has flown away
    In a night, or in a day,
    In a vision, or in none,
    Is it therefore the less gone?
    All that we see or seem
    Is but a dream within a dream.

    I stand amid the roar
    Of a surf-tormented shore,
    And I hold within my hand
    Grains of the golden sand-
    How few! yet how they creep
    Through my fingers to the deep,
    While I weep- while I weep!
    O God! can I not grasp
    Them with a tighter clasp?
    O God! can I not save
    One from the pitiless wave?
    Is all that we see or seem
    But a dream within a dream?"

    Edgar Allan Poe (1849)

    Come back to reality, Dom...

  • Comment number 10.

    My limited exposure to Poe comes from the Roger Corman adaptations which mainly consisted of people in gloomy castles talking. The exception being 'The Masque of the red death' in which a group of depraved aristocrats lock themselves away in a castle entertaining each other by setting people on fire whilst Death sits patiently outside playing solitaire. If Luis Bunuel had made 'The Seventh Seal' it would look like this film and it may have inspired the infamous orgy from Brian Yuzna's 'Society'.

  • Comment number 11.

    I will tell you what's not the best adaptation and that would have to be Corrie and Hustle man himself Robert Vaughn in Buried Alive......

  • Comment number 12.

    The Punchdrunk theatre company's interpretation of Masque of the Red Death. An event which I think will stay with me forever as one of the most unique experiences of my entire life.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes, The Simpsons 'The Raven' is absolute genius!

  • Comment number 14.

    The Haunting of Hill House is surely in the poe tradition with it's isolated house, the over bearing patriarch, overbearing sense of loss and grief and the passage at the beginning describing the house in both novel and film is pure Poe in it's semi poetic style.

  • Comment number 15.

    I feel ashamed to say that despite me being a huge horror fan, I've never read any of Poe's books or seen any Poe adaptations, granted I'm one of the good Doctor's younger fans so I didn't grow up with these films like he did. The closest thing I've seen to a Poe film is "The Black Cat" with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, which, from what I've heard, isn't at all faithful to the original Poe story. Nonetheless, I love this film because Karloff (one of my favourite actors ever) gives one of his best performances as Hjalmar Poelzig, the Satanic priest. Who else other than Karloff could play a man who marries Lugosi's daughter, kills young women and suspends their hanging corpses in glass coffins for him to see, but still at the same time have such elegance and intellect.
    This film is truly the film that shows audiences just how much of a malicious, yet awesome, epitome of Satanic evil Karloff could've been when playing intelligent characters as well as hulking monsters like in Frankenstein and The Old Dark House.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tales of Terror (1962). Starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone, directed by Roger Corman, screenplay by Richard Matheson. What a combination of campy talent. Peter Lorre especially shines in this movie and we see what a great comic actor he could have been if he had been given the chance.

  • Comment number 17.

    The remake of The Ladykillers. While it only has a tangential link the fact that Tom Hanks character has such a love for Poe makes me slightly uneasy at the very sight of him. It doesn't help matters that his violin has a ravens head on it which. Makes me think he bought it because of the head and that it is something dear to him because of it.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think my favourite Poe style movie is probably Hitchcock's "Rope" which has obvious links to his story "The Tell-Tale Heart". The omnipresence of the body in the room and the tension created between the small cast perfectly mirrors the internal monologue of the protagonist in the Poe story.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think Roger Corman's 'The Raven' from 1963 is terrifying and, considering the title of this new adaptation, rather appropriate.

  • Comment number 20.

    The Roger Corman films obviously.

    I would like to add the 1968 film "Histoires Extraordinaires", a.k.a. "Spirits of the Dead", a so called omnibus film directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Fellini. Fellini's section called "Toby Dammit" stands out, starring Terence Stamp as a famous and blasé movie star. I don't want to spoil the iconic ending, but I like to think that the scene in which Stamp drives a sports car maniacally through night-time Rome inspired Kubrick when making A Clockwork Orange.

    My favourite Poe animation is the 1953 "Tell Tale Heart", narrated by James Mason. It's so gripping that it was the first animation in the UK to receive an X (adults only) certificate. It's available on YouTube, as is Tim Burton's stop motion "Vincent" narrated by Vincent Price about a boy obsessed by Poe and featuring quotes from The Raven. Enjoyable, even if less popular than The Simpsons version.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment may be a little out of left-field but when John Doe is introduced to the detectives in se7en reminded me a lot of the Poe style of horror. The real presence of evil in the room, the increasingly enraged paranoia of the protagonist(s) and then finally the body part in the room that eventually drives our previously sane characters over the edge.

    I'm a fan of Fulci, Argento and Corman but haven't watched any of their films in a couple of years. I just don't see McTeigue capturing any of the interesting paranoia nor verging into the surrealism that made those previous directors great. This is the guy that made V for Vendetta which was all gloss and no substance...why would he handle a horror great any better than he handled a popular graphic novel?

  • Comment number 22.

    This sort of film makes me long for Vincent Price, as Norton tends to take himself way to seriously.

    It's a shame they didn't do a motion capture computer-animated film of this, and have an animated Vincent Price, with someone who can do a brilliant impression of his distinctive voice.

    In fact, it's high time we had a computer animated horror film for adults.

  • Comment number 23.

    My favourite Poe adaptation, though possibly not the best, is the European anthology Spirits of the Dead. Baroque art-direction, florid performances, Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot in revealing outfits, Alan Delon stalking his identical twin, Terence Stamp going bonkers, plus Federico Fellini delivering the screen's eeriest incarnation of Satan as a creepy little girl with a bouncing ball (due deference to Mario Bava). Great stuff.

  • Comment number 24.

    My vote goes to Corman’s Masque of the Red Death. Vincent Price gives one of his best performances and it’s easily the best film Corman directed (made in the UK too; a pity Corman never worked for Hammer).
    Some good lines too:
    "There is no face of Death until the moment of your own death ... Each man creates his own God for himself - his own heaven, his own hell."
    "Why should you be afraid to die? Your soul has been dead for a long time.”

  • Comment number 25.

    Jan Švankmajer's short films - his version of 'The Pit, the Pendulum and Hope' or his 'The Premature Burial'

  • Comment number 26.

    The Evil Dead. It all boils down to a professor misbehaving with the Necronomicon. Tsk. Silly professor.

  • Comment number 27.

    I always loved 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' (1932) for all the wrong reasons - I mean, a guy in a gorilla suit doing an impression of Conrad Veidt in 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari'?

    What was Edgar A smoking when he came up with that storyline? If history has taught us anything, it's that monkeys don't make very good criminal accomplices - well, there was Cheetah's drugs bust and that time when one of the PG Tipps chimps got nicked for selling counterfeit passports to Indonesian gibbons, but homicide? Naaaaah...

  • Comment number 28.

    The best films Roger Corman directed were "The Intruder" (with The Shat) and "The Trip", just saying.

  • Comment number 29.

    This may be off topic but a few years ago BBC7 (now called Radio 4 Extra) had a season of Edgar Allen Poe stories read at midnight by Christopher Lee over the Christmas period. His reading of The Tell Tale Heart was terrifying!

  • Comment number 30.

    Need to have a think about this, I've just checked that my online streaming rental service has Two Evil Eyes for free as part of my subscription, so I'll just have to watch that, but for now:

    Corman/Price Masque of the Red Death as it just has an atmosphere that prefigures Argento. I also have a fragment of a memory of watching another adaptation either Ligeia or Usher when I was 11 on TV, I only remember someone burning in a tomb, but it's an image that stayed with me. I had a flexidisc of Karloff reading Tell Tale Heart, but I have no idea where I got that from, or what became of it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Vol. 1 of the metal band Cradle of Filth / horror movie-fixture Ingrid Pitt collaboration 'Bathory Aria' - 'Benighted Like Usher' - eponymously alludes to the Poe character.

  • Comment number 32.

    Does The Crow count? I know the creator said himself that he was influenced by Poe when writing the original graphic novel. Either way one of my favourite movies.

  • Comment number 33.

    I'd second Stephen Jones' "The Black Cat" (from #6 Ozymandius87). Combes' central performance is extremely impressive, and the way that the original story is interwoven into Poe's own life is extremely well done!

  • Comment number 34.

    Stuart Gordon's episode 'The Black Cat' from Masters of Horror Season 2 was one of the best of the entire series. Combs delivered a phenomenal performances which also I would view as one of the finest, if not the finest of his career.

  • Comment number 35.

    My 5 films for my Cusackathon (with an all 80s theme since that's where his best work was done):

    5 Either 'Stand By Me' or ''The Journey of Natty Gann'
    4 Eight Men Out
    3 One Crazy Summer
    2 Better Off Dead
    1 Broadcast News

    Cusack really needs to do another film with Savage Steve Holland...

    And if I really have to... best onscreen Poe... Either The aforementioned Brandon Lee gothic vigilante ghost story 'The Crow' or The Lost Boys for the Frog brothers, Edgar and Alan.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think Peter Weir's 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', which references Poe's poem 'A Dream Within a Dream', cleverly captures the oneiric strangeness of the poem.

    'All that we see or seem
    Is but a dream within a dream.'

  • Comment number 37.

    Not a direct adaptation and not particularly scary, but Sergio Martino's psychedelic, giallo groove-fest, "Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key", is easily one of the sexiest and most fun pieces of Poe-inspired cinema I've come across. A beautifully convoluted mystery involving seduction, betrayal, and motocross, with Poe's "Black Cat" at the heart of it all. And the gorgeous Edwige Fenech as the cherry on top.

  • Comment number 38.

    Although I have not read Poe, I have read some of his contemporaries such as J S Le Fanu, and later Algernon Blackwood. Two of the best Blackwood ("The Willows" and "The Wendigo") are simply "weird nature horror" at its very best. Hard to articulate but the theme of the environment "becoming alive" is incredibly unsettling. In may of my favourite films, the location and environment is treated sensitively and becomes as much a living thing as the characters and action - take the recent "Troll Hunter" for example. Them there hills are ancient!

  • Comment number 39.

    Another vote for "The Simpsons" version of the "The Raven."

    Yeah, I know it's a short segment on an animated TV show, but it managed to bring Poe's brilliance into this young man's mind---something which school had failed to do! And for that I'm ever grateful.

    Ah, the power of cartoons.

  • Comment number 40.

    Correction: ...version of "The Raven."
    Darn typos!

  • Comment number 41.

    the simpsons

  • Comment number 42.

    Yep, I'm with the people recommending The Simpsons version of The Raven. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 43.

    The truth comes out! its not Julian Sands' acting ability after all, but a personal grudge held by the good doctor that has long caused him to review sands' work so disparagingly. oh and the pit and the pendulum is the only one ive seen, and the lugosi black cat, but i dont think that has much to do with the story

  • Comment number 44.

    Okay, the "Poe Top 5".......

    (1.) "The Masque Of The Red Death (1960)." This is easily the best Poe adaptation to hit the big does much justice to the original story and Vincent Price is at the top of his game. Most importantly, it's obvious that both Corman and Price have much love for the work of EAP. I think they would of made him proud with this classic.
    (2.) "The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1960)." This is the most colourful of all the Price/Corman adaptations. There is a wonderful feeling of dread that is captured straight out of the original story. Price is once again, giving it his all, but the real stars of the movie are some of the spookiest dream sequences ever put to celluloid.
    (3.) Pit and the Pendulum (1961)." Much like "The Fall of the House of Usher," this is a colourful and dread-filled Price/Corman adaptation.
    (4.) "Tales Of Terror (1962)." A little more light-hearted than the movies above, TOT treats you to 3 different Poe stories."Morella," "The Black Cat" and "Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar." While the first 2 are fun, the final is spot on and really manages to capture the horror of one of Poe's most terrifying stories.
    (5.) "Premature Burial (1962)." While this movie isn't as good as the previous four it may well be the most unsettling. I remember watching it on one of the BBC 2 late night horror double bills as a kid and the whole idea of being buried alive freaked me out for some time after. Of course various "contingency plans" for my premature demise were formulated such as being buried in a big red telephone box or my coffin having a door which opened outwards instead of a nailed down lid.......all because of watching this movie!!!

    .....Oh and my five movies for the "Cusackathon"...."High Fidelity," "Grosse Pointe Blank," "Bullets Over Broadway," "The Grifters" and "Identity."

  • Comment number 45.

    Not a Poe story, but I think it does capture the gloomy, downbeat spirit of Poe. How about The Dead Zone? First you have a story written by horror scribe Steven King, directed by clinically cold Cronenberg who begins with one of Poe's more haunting poems being read by the King of Creepy Christopher Walken.... Not only is it a great film, but it may well have been some kind of crossroads for the macabre... The Nexus of Creepy.

  • Comment number 46.

    Completely off topic.......I have to agree with Simon when he says "The Artist won too much." You are so wrong about this movie.

    Was the performance of a silent, grinning, tap dancing Frenchman better than Gary Oldman's understated excellence in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"?......No.

    Was Michel Hazanavicius' directing of a silent, grinning, tap dancing Frenchman better than Tomas Alfredsons' meticulous direction on "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"?......No.

    Was the story about a silent, grinning, tap dancing Frenchman better than "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Drive," "Midnight In Paris," "Single Adult," "We Need To Talk About Kevin" or a number of other movies it would take too long to mention?.....No

    It was a victory for the Weinstein publicity machine over true excellence.....something which I found disappointing. "The Artist" will be viewed as nothing more than another "Oscar curiosity" in the years to come.

  • Comment number 47.

    John Carpenter's The Fog starts off with a direct quote from Poe and does a pretty good job at getting the mix of detective story and ghost story right.

  • Comment number 48.

    Mask of the Red Death. Wasnt Vincent Price just fantastic.He is sorely missed.

  • Comment number 49.

    It seems no one mentioned the fantastic "Tell Tale Heart" animated short from back in 1953. The James Mason narration is brilliant!

  • Comment number 50.

    Roger Corman's best filmography can arguably be his adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe like "Tales of Terror", and my personal favourite segment was the one where Peter lorre gets more than he bargains for after he murders Vincent Price and his wife. The hallucination sequence is extremely creepy even till this day, and like other Corman adaptations of Poe (except for "The Raven" which was quite silly frankly), the atmosphere and paranoia is well constructed.

    However, were I to refer to a short film, I would, like others, have to refer to the Oscar nominated short film adaptation of "The Tell Tale Heart". It really is a very literal translation of the short story and James Mason's narration adds to the darkness of the piece. I do consider it one of the best horror films along with "The Exorcist" (even though this is just a short film) because it truly demonstrates that you do not need overproduced garbage from Michael Bay and written by hacks like Rob Zombie to build a portrayal of how someone slowly descends into madness. This film has the the thrills and the chills and accurately captures the essence of the story. I truly love this short to pieces.

  • Comment number 51.

    I know it's technically based on a Harry Brown novel ('The Stars in their Courses'), but Howard Hawks' 1967 film El Dorado, with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, has several scenes in which James Caan recites verses from Edgar Allen Poe's masterly poem 'El Dorado', which effectively serves as a running ballad over the course of the action; obviously the film isn't explicitly about a conquistador, as the poem is, but it certainly shares the poem's concern with the imminence of death and the elusiveness of happiness, and for that reason I think is worth mentioning here.

    On a related note, Michael Reeve's 'Witchfinder General' was retitled 'The Conqueror Worm' in America after Poe's poem of the same name, in a attempt to associate the film with the Roger Corman/Vincent Price horror brand; this seems to have been more opportunist than anything else...

  • Comment number 52.

    I would never watch a scary movie if I could avoid it. Can't understand people who do - they must be very affluent well todo people with boring lives if they need to add artificial scary.

  • Comment number 53.

    Although not a Poe adaptation, Corman's Bucket of Blood precedes his Poe cycle, and has a few nods in the direction of Poe. It is also a fantastic noir / horror hybrid that mocks the ridiculous nature of much modern art.

    I also love the idea that Peter Medak's The Krays uses the Poe poem Alone to demonstrate the playground dominance of the twins!

  • Comment number 54.

    Maybe it's because Vincent Price was in it, but I think the original "The Fly," despite its technicolor, sci-fi shocker presentation, has a very Poe-like feeling throughout its story. The curse of obsession and inevitable personal loss are themes with which Poe would have had an obvious familiarity.

    The Cronenberg remake on the other hand, while covering the same thematic ground and being much darker than its predecessor, is more like... a Cronenberg film.

  • Comment number 55.

    Dear Dr Crankypants,

    How much does Rodrigo Cortés, Chris Sparling & Ryan Reynolds owe to Poe?

  • Comment number 56.

    Also, when are you going to cook us all a nice slap up meal in a haunted house?

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't how if this counts but Tim Burtons first film, the fantastic 'Vincent', has a slight Poe influence. The story of a young child, believing himself to be Vincent Price reads 'The Raven' and then believes himself to be the husband of 'the lost Lenore'. The film ends with Vincent Price quoting the final lines from 'The Raven. A fantastic debut short movie from one of the truly great visionarys of modern cinema.

  • Comment number 58.

    I have a soft spot for Ray Milland; an underrated actor I felt despite his Oscar win. So my (tell tale) heart says The Premature Burial while my head says The Masque Of The Red Death. Either way for people of a certain age (and we are a similar age Doc) it's always going to be Corman. Allan poe's strange and exotic tales could have been written for Corman to make...

  • Comment number 59.

    I really loved the "Simpsons" adaptation of Poes "The Raven".
    Very funny and acctually (especially for a child, which I was when I first saw it) also sort of creepy. Not a movie, but I think it should count! ;-)

  • Comment number 60.

    The Masque of the Red Death is a very good and very chilling horror film, its one of my favourite horror films actually, but I had no idea it was Poe related till I watched you saying about it in this blog post!
    I know everyone is saying it but I agree too, The Simpsons "The Raven" was excellent.

  • Comment number 61.

    The Simpsons' take on The Raven.

  • Comment number 62.

    When The Simpsons did The Raven for the very first Treehouse Of Horror, it wasn't just a funny send-up of Poe's classic poetry (though it does have its moments - "Quoth the Raven, 'Eat My Shorts'.") What they did was take a faithful approach to this deserved masterpiece and tell it to a generation who may have never been brought up with Poe's genius. For me, it was my first introduction to Poe. They've also pulled off a nice little homage to "The Taletell Heart" in "Lisa's Enemy" (best line: "Augh! It's the beating of the hideous heart! I mean, I think I hear something...")

    And, though obviously not a straight adaptation of any of Poe's works, Tim Burton's classic short "Vincent", which rightly salutes the actor who so embodied Poe, Vincent Price. Without Poe, no Price. Without Price, arguably no Burton. 'Nuff said.

  • Comment number 63.

    I'll go for Dwain Esper 1934 expoitation classic 'Maniac' loosely based on poe's the black cat. It's full of bad acting, poor continuity, nudity, animal cruelty and woman on woman baseball bat action.. It really is as bad as it sounds a masterpiece of awfulness! That's why I love it.

  • Comment number 64.

    35) totally agree with your cusack choices.. Love better off dead and one crazy summer, also Demi Moores best film.. And bobcat goldthwaits.

  • Comment number 65.

    Has kermode uncut gone bourne?

    Shaky camera work everywhere!

  • Comment number 66.

    For me it has to be the Bela Lugosi version of The Black Cat. Not only because I think it is the best Poe adaptation but for its daring approach of keeping all the violence of the book in the film when they really weren't allowed to.

  • Comment number 67.

    The Simpsons adaption. It captures perfectly the psychological torment and suspense which are always the trademarks of a great piece of horror film.

  • Comment number 68.

    100% it has to be The Simpsons Tree House of Horror, Series 2 Episode 1. Classic! And will always remind me of when we had cable installed and it was around 1990-1991 (woah! Long time ago!) and I was developing that sense of 'Halloween'. From there it made me look into Poe's stories, poetry and film adaptations. Nevermore....

  • Comment number 69.

    The Fall of the House of Usher affected me deeply as an older child. It still holds a beloved and yet creepy place in my heart.

    However, like a lot of people, I adore The Simpsons retelling of The Raven. How could you not love a raven with Bart Simpson's head saying "nevermore". Brilliant.

  • Comment number 70.

    This thread has reminded me of another Poe adaptation for a different medium, which I unfortunately haven't gotten around to checking out from the quirky tribute record producer Hal Wilner (whose Disney tribute Album Stay Awake and WB music sampler The Carl Stalling Project are real must haves), an album of readings from Poe by actors and musicians, Closed On Account Of Rabies:

    Disc: 1
    1. Alone - Marianne Faithfull
    2. The Raven - Christopher Walken
    3. The Tell-Tale Heart - Iggy Pop
    4. The Conqueror Worm - Ken Nordine
    5. The Black Cat - Diamanda Galas
    6. For Annie - Gavin Friday
    7. To Helen - Ed Sanders
    Disc: 2
    1. The Haunted Palace - Ed Sanders
    2. Ulalume - Jeff Buckley
    3. Berenice - Dr. John
    4. The City and the Sea - Deborah Harry and the Jazz Passengers
    5. Annabel Lee - Marianne Faithfull
    6. The Masque of the Red Death - Gabriel Byrne
    7. Raven [Live Excerpt] - Abel Ferrara

    I really regret not snagging this when it came out as it's become rare, staggeringly expensive and not available for download. Although, even the version I imagine just reading the personnel and the track listing, seems pretty terrifying, and that's the essence of Poe, isn't it? Only Werner Herzog following in Abel Ferrara's footsteps again to do the Raven could have made it more complete.

    (on the unrelated Cusack-a-thons, I'm really pleased to see the love above for the underrated comedies helmed by Savage Steve Holland, Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer).

  • Comment number 71.

    I'm going to apologise for being really obvious here but for me it's the two Stuart Gordon adaptations The Black Cat and The Pit & The Pendulum and the Dario Argento segment of Two Evil Eyes where Argento puts an ultra modern spin on the tale of The Black Cat.
    Another adaptation starring Oli Reed (he's also in TP&TP) is the fabulous '89 version of The House of Usher. I recall seeing TP&TP and THOU in like '92 as an 11 year old boy ... and now I wonder why I can't go a day without watching a horror movie!

  • Comment number 72.

    I've always had a liking for "The City under the Sea", directed by Jacques Tourneur, very loosely based on a Poe poem. The first half is fun, but the second half, with its interminable underwater chase sequence is dire. Not to mention that volcano off Cornwall...

    It does have Vincent Price, of course.

  • Comment number 73.

    I've got a big fondness for the Universal trilogy of Poe "adaptations", really more inspired by his work but emanating that eerie essence nonetheless: Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Black Cat; The Raven. Lugosi is absolutely terrific in all three, and for the latter two he's paired with Karloff, which is always something to get excited about. I think Murders would have to be my favourite of the bunch, a beautifully expressionistic horror movie with some really risque religious imagery for the time (1932). Apparently Lugosi and the director Robert Florey had originally been set to make Frankenstein, but what they come up with instead is just about as good as that classic.

  • Comment number 74.

    As a Universal Horror fan I tend to think of their Poe films even though they were more simply cash-ins on the name than adaptations. As well as The Black Cat, there was The Raven and Murders in the Rue Morgue. The former is worth seeing for one of Lugosi's best - and hammiest - performances and features a swinging pendulum that long pre-dates the Corman version. The latter is a particularly interesting case; it was directed by Robert Florey, who was at one stage going to adapt Frankenstein, with Lugusi as the star, before both were fired (or left, depending on which story you listen to). Worried about the censors, Universal cut about 20 minutes out of the film seriously damaging the structure of the movie (though it was still a huge box office success). And yet it has some truly remarkable elements; Lugosi's performance, the beautiful, tiny, Sidney Fox in a supporting role, and some of the very best photography from the brilliant cinematographer Karl Freud. However it is a Poe adaptation in name only, completely abandoning the original story.

  • Comment number 75.

    Apologies to Baron Ronan Doyle, who I just noticed pre-empted every point I just made.

  • Comment number 76.

    My choice would be Fellini's Toby Dammit. I saw it over a decade ago on TV when I was living in Portugal and it was the film that made me become a fan of Fellini. Before I had a prejudice about Fellini, I had this preconception that it was just boring self indulgent nonsense. How wrong I was!

    There are several good reasons why this is one of the best, if perhaps not the best Poe adaptation. Terence Stamp does a tremendous performance as the dissolute star Toby Dammit. The film's corrosive satirical humour was very appealing in particular the scene where the Catholic Priests are trying to convince Toby Dammit to star in a Catholic Western Movie. Also it has one of the most original depictions of the Devil in cinema. I think it was very clever and provocative to picture as that little gitl with the bouncing ball. It genuinely subverts the notion of the Devil as pure unmitigated evil and presents it as possessing some kind of innocence no matter how twisted it might appear. The Devil here is not Evil but playful, more mischievous than malicious.

    Fellini was very clever in the choice of the work to be adapted. Poe is more known for his horror stories, poetry and his precursors to modern crime fiction. But he also wrote comedy as well. Toby Dammit is adapted from the short story "Never bet the Devil your head" which is a bit rubbish to be honest. By choosing from Poe's canon a story that not only is lesser known but also quite mediocre, Fellini had space to take huge flights of fancies and to make something that in terms of quality eclipses the originally completely, there isn't that weight of expectation that one would get by adapting the more famous Poe stories.

    The original story is a lesser work from a pioneer and visionary, this adaptation is a thoroughly charming gem by one of cinema's true visionaries.

  • Comment number 77.

    There is an adaption of one Edgar Allan Poe's most famous tales "The Black Cat" brought to life in the television show Masters of Horror. In this adaption Poe himself becomes the ill-begotten protagonist in his own tale. While having it's flaws and following the gory formula of modern horror, one of the most redeeming features is Jeffrey Coombs playing none other than the great horror writer himself. His portrayal of Poe is excellent and was one of the things that kept me going. Up to now this adaption of one of Poe's tales is the most vivid in memory and one of the best portrayals of Poe himself.

  • Comment number 78.

    My favourite is the Stuart Gordon Pit & the Pendulum, despite its almost Carry On aura; 2 reasons - Lance Hendrikson (great OTT performance) & the great Jeffrey Combs - far from his best role, but he doesn't do enough work to be ultra-choosy...

  • Comment number 79.

    I know it popped up very briefly in the video, but for me it's definitely Lucio Fulci's version of The Black Cat (or should that be Il gatto nero). As a massive Fulci fan this movie is the perfect Poe adaptation, combining just the right amounts of classic Poe atmosphere with lashings of Fulci's reliably over-the-top deaths and directorial style. Add Patrick Magee's eyebrows and you have a recipe for success.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm a huge Poe fan and I have loved nearly all adatations of his work, I have to agree with you Mr Kermode Corman's The Pit and The Pedulum is one of the most unforgetable. On a side note as such a big Poe fan I eventualy came accross a Japanese writer who was incredibly inspired by Poe's work and took the pseudonym Edogawa Rampo (Edo-gara Ram-Po) and his stories have adorned Japanese films and manga since the late 60's and much like the man he looked up to, the interpreations of his work varey in quality but I would recomend Rampo Noir if you haven't wachted it already

  • Comment number 81.

    Shame Cusack starred in this movie as i rate him , what a terrible movie.

  • Comment number 82.

    I like Argento's half of Two Evil Eyes. It's a combination of The Black Cat & The Tell-tale Heart & a bit of The Pit and the Pendulum. Argento almost makes us experience Rod Usher's madness as he strangles and photographs cats, bricks up his dead wife and photographs gruesome crime scenes with relish. It's bizarre but has a twisted logic, like one of Poe's narrators. Argento knows how to create stress and unease with his camera.

  • Comment number 83.

    There's a whole series of Poe short film episodes -
    Fun stuff.

  • Comment number 84.

    Got to be Masque of the Red Death for me, probably my age I grew up on Hammer Horrors and Roger Corman movies. Peter Cushing v Vincent Price? for me a noble score draw

  • Comment number 85.

    I know this is late for this thread, but I just stumbled across these relevant bits from the WFMU website which features an amazing treasure trove of bizarre public domain audio, including James Mason reading three Poe's, including, noted above The Tell-Tale Heart:

    and William S. Burroughs reading excerpts from Masque of the Red Death:

    (I do appreciate that links to outside content, which I've not authored, may fall afoul of BBC rules, if the moderators see fit to disable the links, just google WFMU and Poe)

  • Comment number 86.

    Tales of Poe. Given the amount of drek at the cinema these days, I hope one day you'll do a blog entitled Tales of Poo...

  • Comment number 87.

    The 1950's / 60's James Mason narrated, animated version of The Tell Tale Heart.

  • Comment number 88.

    Great discussion topic. For me, although I love all the Corman adaptations mentioned as well as Vincent Price, there are actually very few films which capture the bleakness and melancholia of the best EA Poe stories and poems. The only Corman adaptation that I think created the right mood throughout was The Masque of The Red Death, although all of Corman's dream sequences are pure Poe. The films which have chilled me in the same way as Poe's stories would predominantly not be direct interpretations e.g. the visual language of Francis Ford Coppolla's Dracula. There was also a Belgian film called 'Calvaire', meaning The Ordeal, which was ritten off as a rip-off of a few other horror films, but actually, other than a couple of film references, it is actually very Poe-like and quite original- it seems to gradually develope a melancholy and strangeness, then it descends into an even darker nightmare. The most recent film that gave me that feeling was the British film 'Kill List' and just before that, 'Wake Wood' - it's the twisted relationships, failing beliefs, perverse moral dilemmas, descent into mania, scewed perception, gothic bleakness. In terms of the Italian cinema influenced by Poe, the closest in tone I think was The Mask of Satan starring Barbara Steele. Another possibility might be Satyricon by Fellini. In classic American\UK cinema, The Wind (1928), Cat People + Night Of The Demon dir. Jacques Tourneur, Rebecca + 39 Steps + The Birds + Vertigo + Psycho + Frenzy dir. Hitchcock, Torture Garden, The Innocents, The Vault of Horror, The Seventh Victim, Rosemary's Baby, The Deer Hunter, Session 9. I think there's quite a few modern european ghost films that are influenced by Poe like The Others, The Devil's Backbone, Hierro, Babycall, Enter The Void. In terms of far-eastern cinema, I think 'The Eye' was clearly influenced by Poe indirectly, possibly Ringu, Pulse and Nightmare Detective, possibly even Uncle Boonmee, just last year - and there was a previous mention of the writer Edogawa Rampo and his movie adaptations. I assume Poe must be a fairly big influence of David Lynch aswell, in particular Eraserhead, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Picnic at Hanging Rock was a good shout too. When I heard a version of the Raven was coming out I was so excited - then I heard it was Cushack and started to worry because of his involvement in Max, another hammy adaptation of a pretty dark subject matter. Then I heard that its a Sherlock Holmes style action mystery about a sort of beefed up version of Poe himself, a man who in reality was a manic depressive alcoholic who lost his wife at an early age to TB, haunted by difficult relationships with absent or dead beloved women hence characters like Ligeia. Needless to say, I won't be watching it.

  • Comment number 89.

    the problem with adapting stories by writers such as poe onto the big screen is, in my opinion the lack of vision shown by the people who make them.come on, apart from the shining can you think of any other stephen king story that has captured any of the true essence of his writings.ironically king didn't like kubricks interpretation, however, i challenge anyone who would deny the film is a masterpeice.writers like poe are able to convey in their characters a true feeling of the horror they are confronting,a feeling that is lost on screen.i think the essence of what i'm saying is that the producers are more interested in the way the film looks, rather than the substance of the story.this is surely an injustice to the often tortured souls who were quite often trying to explore a darker side of human nature.i do believe that these tales lose their impact when the hollywood scriptwriters turn them into camp farces with pretty boy heroes who somehow manage to convince the audience that good conquers evil.human nature ain't like that.

  • Comment number 90.

    Vincent, the Tim Burton short. I think that is a great, Poe inspired film and probably Tim Burton's best film.

  • Comment number 91.

    From that trailer of 'The Raven', the plot seems to be similar to the plot of Dario Argento's Tenebrae!


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