CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: QUICK CUTS
Favorite POE Adaptations
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Paul McMahon
The great Edgar Allan Poe’s work has a long history of movie adaptations.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.
THE RAVEN opens this Friday, April 27, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, in a tale that pits the author against a murderous psychopath who patterns his crimes after Poe’s stories.
So, with Poe hitting the big screen yet again, it leads us to the subject of today’s QUICK CUTS column: what’s your favorite movie based upon a story by Poe?
It could be that one which you feel best captured his work, or simply that one that you just happen to like the most.
Pete, since this is your first time here, we’ll start with you.
PETE DUDAR: Thanks, Michael. And you’re right. I’m new here to QUICK CUTS. I’ve been looking forward to my chance to throw in my two cents.
(L.L. SOARES throws a bunch of coins at PETE.)
L.L. SOARES: Keep the change!
PETE DUDAR (laughing): Wow. Real coins!
L.L. SOARES: What? Don’t they have real money up there in Maine?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Alright, guys. Let’s get to some real answers.
PETE DUDAR: My favorite Poe film has to be Roger Corman’s adaptation of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
L.L. SOARES: The movie version was called THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) in the U.S.
PETE DUDAR: Yeah, that one. In England it was called THE FALL OF...Vincent Price is one of the most beloved Poe character portrayers, and his performance as Roderick Usher is just flat-out creepy.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yeah, Price is pretty creepy as Roderick.
PETE DUDAR: I’m still on the fence about the new movie THE RAVEN. I feel as if Jeffrey Combs was slighted for the more popular (and better looking) John Cusack. Sometimes, integrity really is more important than box-office draw.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, we’ll find out this weekend.
L.L. SOARES: As a huge fan of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, I really love their Poe-themed movies THE BLACK CAT (1934) and THE RAVEN (1935).
THE BLACK CAT, arguably the best of the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi team-ups of the 1930s.
MICHAEL ARRUDA (groans): Those are my two favorites too!
L.L. SOARES: Well, I get to talk about them first. So, shut up and let me talk about them!
These movies were made when both stars were at the height of their fame, and are very atmospheric (especially The Black Cat). Unfortunately, neither movie was very faithful to Poe’s work, and the only things they had in common with the stories were their titles.
Roger Corman’s series of Poe-inspired movies during the 1960s and 70s weren’t always faithful either, but at least they tried a little harder to be. The best of the bunch would be a tie for me: THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)—.
PETE DUDAR: Nice choice! I’m glad I thought of it for you!
L.L. SOARES: You didn’t even get the name of the movie right!
THE HOUSE OF USHER, Corman’s first Poe film, features a terrific performance by Vincent Price as Roderick Usher, in a tale of madness and incest in a creepy old house.
But for me, it’s a tie with MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) which also features Price, this time as the decadent Prince Prospero, throwing a lavish masquerade party in his castle while a plague decimates the outside world. MASQUE even manages to include Poe’s story “Hop Frog” into the mix (although here the character is called Hop Toad for some bizarre reason).
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Maybe Corman didn’t like frogs. Paul, how about you?
PAUL MCMAHON: I don’t have any problem with frogs.
MICHAEL ARRUDA (laughing): No. What’s your favorite Poe adaptation?
PAUL MCMAHON: My favorite Poe adaptation would have to be Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) with Vincent Price. Richard Matheson’s screenplay added a ton of build up—the story was only two pages long, after all—but the movie kept the flavor of Poe throughout. It kept my attention completely, and had a kick-ass ending.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Really? I always thought the ending was a bit of a letdown. I wanted that pendulum to do some damage!
PAUL MCMAHON: I also really enjoyed THE RAVEN (1963). Yeah, it was goofy as hell, but watching Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson tearing it up makes for a fun night. I still plug it in occasionally.
L.L. SOARES: Ugh.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yeah, that’s a funny one, but it’s not one of my favorites.
PAUL MCMAHON: What are some of your favorites?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Like L.L., probably my all-time favorite movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe would be the Universal flick THE BLACK CAT (1934) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although about the only thing this movie has in common with Poe is the title. It’s really not based on Poe’s story at all. It’s still a really cool movie though, probably my favorite pairing of Karloff and Lugosi.
L.L. SOARES: Hey! I already said all that. You just copied me!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE RAVEN (1935) again starring Lugosi and Karloff. Once more, this one had little to do with Poe other than Lugosi’s character’s obsession with Poe, especially his instruments of torture, and the film includes a scene with a giant swinging pendulum from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
You also can’t go wrong with the Vincent Price movies based on Poe. My favorite Price/Poe vehicle is probably THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) based on Poe’s THE CONQUERER WORM, which is the film’s U.S. title. It’s probably the best made of the Price/Poe movies, and it contains one of Price’s scariest performances.
PETE DUDAR: No, that would be THE HOUSE OF USHER….
L.L. SOARES: Hey, he got the title right!
PETE DUDAR: Shut up, you!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Ironically, THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL is not one of the Poe movies directed by Roger Corman.
L.L. SOARES: Yeah, it’s directed by the great Michael Reeves. I love that one, too!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE OBLONG BOX (1969), with Price and Christopher Lee, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), in which Vincent Price dons dark sunglasses and looks like Johnny Depp’s uncle.
So, there you have it, folks, our picks for our favorite Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.
Will the new movie THE RAVEN join the ranks of favorite Poe movies? We’ll find out this weekend.
L.L. SOARES: So be sure to join us this weekend for our CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT column on THE RAVEN.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yes, definitely join us for that! And thanks Peter and Paul for joining us.
L.L. SOARES: Yeah, and next time bring Mary!
PETE DUDAR: It’s been a blast.
PAUL MCMAHON: Fun as always.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: On behalf of L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Paul McMahon, and myself, Michael Arruda, thank you all for joining us. Good night everybody!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar and Paul McMahon