The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Edgar Allan Poe

    About Edgar Allan Poe:

The Man

Born 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. 

The Films

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 attention. Things 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 screen pictures.

   DVD Reviews - Films inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat (1934)
Universal 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.
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
MGM Region 1 DVD
Cleverly adapted from Poe's story, this film is the first of the AIP Poe adaptations and has a wonderful atmosphere.
The Haunted Palace (1963)
MGM Region 1 DVD
Although credited to Poe, this AIP Gothic is actually based on a story by H.P Lovecraft. It does boast a well written script.
Partly recommended.
The Mansion of Madness (1973)
Mondo Macabro USA Region 0 DVD
A disturbingly surreal look at madness in an adaptation of a lesser known Poe work.
Partly recommended.
Masque of the Red Death (1964)
MGM Region 1 DVD
The highlight of the AIP horror cycle and among Corman's best work. Also contains elements of Poe's Hop-Toad
Highly recommended.
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Robert Florey manages to take all the mystery and excitement out of Poe's story.
Only for Lugosi and Universal Horror completists.
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
MGM Region 1 DVD
The well written, acted and directed second of the AIP Poe films has few links to the original story.
Partly recommended.
Premature Burial (1962)
MGM Region 1 DVD
An interesting story is let down by a poor climax but Corman is solid as usual in this AIP horror.
Partly recommended to fans of the series.
The Raven (1935)
Universal Region 1 DVD (Bela Lugosi Collection Boxset)
Based on the famous poem, and starring horror icons Lugosi and Karloff, this film bares little reference to the Poe work.
Only recommended to Lugosi fans.
The Raven (1963)
MGM Region 1 DVD
A clever twist on the classic poem provides a good backing for this well directed film with some very good acting.
Recommended to AIP gothic and Karloff/Price fans.
The Snake Pit and the Pendulum (1967)
German E-M-S Region 2 DVD (a.k.a Castle of the Walking Dead)
Not much Poe, but this German gothic horror is well acted and directed, starring Christopher Lee and Lex Barker.
Torture Garden (1967)
UK Sony Region 2 DVD
An Amicus anthology horror film, Peter Cushing stars as an eccentric Poe collector who has gone to collection extremes.
Partially recommended.


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All text on this page written by Timothy Young - June 2006.
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