Top Ten Edgar Allan Poe Films
By: Madeline Milden
Edgar Allan Poe is is one of the most influential figures of American literature. Dripping in gothic romanticism and a devastating sense of dread, he is best known for his poems and tales of mystery and dread. Poe’s work has influenced film since his first appearance in the 1909 DW Griffith’s 7 minute short to modern day theatrical failu… release :cough, cough: The Raven.
This is my list of top ten feature length films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. I am excluding biopics and films that have very minimal elements even though being labeled as “based on his works”. I have done my best to keep the Roger Corman films to a minimum as well as the adaptations of The Black Cat. These are in no particular order.
10. All though known for his Lovecraft adaptations Stuart Gordon (From Beyond) has dabbled in the works of Poe. His adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) stars Lance Henrikson (Aliens) as the insane monk Torquemada whom is determined to rid the world of witches and his latest victim played by Rona De Ricci. The film also has genre favorites Frances Bay (Blue Velvet) and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator). The adaptation combines The Pit and The Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado and Richard Westall’s Sword of Damocles. Though not being the truest to Poe’s work the film is a creative mix that I found to still be entertaining and packing plenty of the late 80’s early 90’s Full Moon ridiculousness.
9. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) is an erotic and gory Giallo thriller brought to us by Sergio Martino (Torso). An interesting take on The Black Cat tale with plenty of sleaze and psychological torture. The film stars Luigi Pistilli (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) playing the sympathetic but still awful Oliviero, Anita Stindberg (Murder Syndrome) as his tormented wife, and Edwige Fenech (Strip Nude for your Killer) as the lovely Floriana. Though another loose adaptation I would still recommend it as a great example of the Giallo genre and for Bruno Nicolai’s beautiful score.
8. Tomb of Ligeia (1964) is the last of the Corman Poe films. Released in 1965, the film stars Vincent Prince (sans his trade mark mustache) as widower Verden Fell whose obsession with his late wife Ligeia played by Elizabeth Shepherd (The Omen II) and her ghost isn’t making things easy for his new wife also played by Shepherd. The film has a very different feel from Corman’s other Poe adaptations. He trades in the gothic scenery for the English country side and camera work by Arthur Grant giving the film a very Hammer look.
7. Spirits of the Dead (1968) is an elegantly done film anthology done by 3 of Italy’s biggest names; Roger Vadim (Barbarella), Louis Malle (Atlantic City) and Frederico Fellini (La Dolce Vita). The film features numerous notable actors, including Jane Fonda (Klute), Brigitte Bardot (Contempt), and General Zod himself Terence Stamp. Every sequence is beautifully filmed with astounding sets and gorgeous costumes. Fellini’s Toby Dammit is the shinning jewel in this cinema crown.
5. The animated collection Extraordinary Tales (2013) brings together five Poe stories, with five different animators and the voice talents of many of Horror’s brightest stars. Christopher Lee of Hammer Horror fame narrates The Fall of the House of Usher, Bella Lugosi (Dracula) narrating The Tell Tale Heart, Julian Sands (Naked Lunch) tackling The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, Director Guillermo del Torro (The Devil’s Backbone) doing The Pit and the Pendulum and Roger Corman himself voicing a character in Masque of the Red Death. The is a nice salute to Poe’s work and stays very faithful to his compositions.
4. Roger Corman’s Pit and The Pendulum (1961) with Vincent Price starring as Nicholas Medina, the son of an infamous Spanish Inquisitor haunted by a family curse. Nicholas’ wife Elizabeth played by Barbara Steele (Black Sunday) has died under mysterious circumstances, her brother Francis played by John Kerr (South Pacific) to arrive at the Medina castle to investigate. When this film was released in the UK in 1962, the posters were headlined by the statement: “THE FIRST PERSON TO DIE OF FRIGHT WHILE WATCHING THIS FILM IS INSURED FOR £10,000”
3. Gordon Hessler’s The Oblong Box (1969) Price this time around plays Julian, trying to hide his deformed, crazed brother Edward played by Alister Willamson (The Gorgon). Lee plays Dr. Newhartt whom through a bizarre turn of events discovers Edward and unleashes him on London. This was Vincent Price and Christopher Lee’s first film together which also started off their lifelong friendship. Just seeing Lee and Price on screen together is enough to recommend this classic.
2. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) is a macabre entry in the Universal horror cycle. Staring Bela Lugosi (Dracula) as the sadistic Dr. Mirakle who will stop at nothing to prove his theories of human evolution. The cinematography takes much of its inspiration from popular German expressionist films which plays in well with Poe’s gothic style. Though a failure at the box office, and Universal ended their first contract with Lugosi it is still a quality film. His performance makes this an instant classic for any horror fan.
1. Masque of the Red Death (1964) is my personal favorite Roger Corman and Vincent Price film. This is one of the most beautiful films I have seen, with the amazing use of color and filmed on location in England. Vincent Price plays the cruel Prospero who is throwing a lavish party while the land is decimated by the Red Death. The film cleverly weaves in the short story of Hop-Frog with actor Skip Martin (Vampire Circus). Certainly, Roger Corman’s most ambitious film and my personal favorite Poe adaptation.