in 1809, Poe suffered a mixed childhood, with the early death of his mother,
and subsequently being raised by foster parents. He latet studied at
University, and joined the army, but dropped out of both. In 1835, he
finally found work as a journal editor and was able to publish some of
his own work, as well as marrying his 13 year old cousin, Virginia.
Moving to New York, he again found work as a sucessful editor and
published his groundbreaking detective story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". Leaving that job, he hoped to found his own journal
but was unsucessful and again struggled for money. After the death of
his wife in from consumption in 1847, he became deeply depressed, and
although recovering a year later, he had taken to heavy drinking and
his work all but ceased. In 1849 he was found in Baltimore in a
distressed state and died days later. Fittingly, the cause of his death
has never been sucessfully attributed.
Although Poe is best known for his horror stories, most notably his dark poem The Raven, he also published a variety of adventure stories, and his The Murders in the Rue Morgue
is credited with creating the detective genre, and directly inspired
the Sherlock Holmes character. Obviously, it would not be long before
his work was adapted into cinema.
Poe's work was credited as inspiration by several silent movies, including Fritz Lang's Die Pest in Florenz (1919), D.W. Griffith's The Avenging Conscience; Thou Shalt Not Kill (1914) and the French surrealist film La Chute de la maison Usher (1928). Poe's work really entered mainstream Hollywood cinema courtesy of Universal Studios. Casting their master of the macabre, Bela Lugosi in the lead, they shot first Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), then The Raven (1934) and The Black Cat (1934 and 1941) as well as Mystery of Marie Roget
(1942). However, like many adaptors, they discovered that Poe's works were too short or complex to be put on the
screen, and instead worked their own stories around them, often with
little reference to the original work. Poe's
work found little screen-time in the 1940s, as the Universal horrors
turned towards monster-mashes, while the 1950s were the era of the
atomic monster and sci-fi pics and Poe's work only got limited
were to change in the 1960s with the gothic horror returning to popularity courtesy of Hammer Films.
The low budget horror producers American International (AIP) and
director Roger Corman gave up their black and while horror cheapies to
shoot House of Usher
(1960) starring Vincent Price, and with a cleverly adapted script by
Richard Matheson that despite making a number of major changes to Poe's
work, helped to retain its atmosphere and flavour in a way that the
Universal films never achieved. AIP went on to produce 8 more Poe films
and a variety of similar gothic horrors throughout the 1960s and early
1970s, usually starring Price whose distinctive presence and voice made him an immediate fan favourite. He would later star in the unique television production, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
(1972), a one man stage recital of four pieces of the writer's work.
Things became more eccentric in the 1970s and 80s with Poe's work very loosely inspiring the bizarre Mexican film, Mansion of Madness (1973), Lucio Fulci's Black Cat (1981), Jess Franco's Revenge in the House of Usher (1982) and Czech stop-motion animation, Zánik domu Usheru
(1981). The 1990s saw filmmakers attempting to return to Poe's original stories, most notably George A. Romero and Dario
Argento in their joint effort Two Evil Eyes (1990) - a two part film using the stories The Black Cat and The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar. The year also saw the writer's work returned to a mainstream audience, as an accurate recital of The Raven was featured as a segment on The Simpsons'
first Hallowe'en special. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Poe's
work continues to be an inspiration for a multitude of big and small
DVD Reviews - Films inspired by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat
Region 1 DVD (Bela
Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Very loosely based on the short story, the film is strong, but with a poor ending. Karloff and Lugosi look great together. Recommended to Karloff/Lugosi and Universal Horror fans.