Horror 365, Movie(s) 119: Poe, Poe, Pitiful Me

No no no not that!
This!

“True, nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” Well, how’s about for writing yet another horror blog with which to Poellute the Interwebz? Let’s start there.

Be that as it may, here we are at Post #119 (Poest?) of our little project. For some reason, 119 was just stuck in my head, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I remembered–1/19, or January 19, specifially January 19 1809, the birthday of one Edgar Allan Poe, an undisputed master of the short story. Obviously His Majesty shall have tribute of me, so, aproPoe of #119, here are a few film versions of my very favorite Poe story, “The Tell-tale Heart.”

Tell Tale

I’ll start with some gory revenge from beyond the grave (Poestmortem you might say). Michael Cuesta’s Tell-TaleTerry (Josh Lucas who I liked a lot in A Beautiful Mind) gets a heart transplant. The heart compels Terry to avenge the death of its original owner. Not much new there. The heart is, sadly, the only connection to Poe. From there, the story strays a bit. One Rotten Tomatoes reviewer calls it “the ‘heart version’ of The Eye” which is more or less fair. Overall pretty watchable. A nod as well to the production studio, Poe Boy. Nice.


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An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe

Time for a classic from 1970, Kenneth Johnson’s An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe, an anthology of one-man Poeformances by, who else, Vincent Price. Of course. The first of the four is a masterful, I think, “Tell-tale Heart.” He goes on to cover “The Sphinx,” “The Cask Of Amontillado,” (my second favorite Poe story), and “The Pit And The Pendulum.” Really, there’s nothing else that needs to be said. It’s Vincent Fucking Price. Come on.


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The Tell-Tale Heart, Tell (shorts)

There have been, obviously, countless short films made of this story. Most of them are way too melodramatic, but I found these two whilst desPoerately to find my all-time favorite (which I’m coming to). Jack Hartley sets his Tell-Tale Heart in the present and is basically a monologue with a few flashbacks added. Tony Nikolakopoulos does a nice job telling the murderer’s tale. A much much looser adaptation is Ryan Connoly’s Tell in which the main character kills his girlfriend. It’s more like a murder story with overtones of Poe (Poevertones if you will). Since Poe’s story is pure narrative, there isn’t much we actually need to see happen. This is often one of the major failings in translating this story to film. Both of these lads handle the idea nicely.


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Extraordinary Tales

If you haven’t checked this out yet, you are in for a treat–an animated version of a handful of Poe tales boasting the likes of Christopher Lee, Julian Sands, Roger Corman, and Guillermo del Toro. It’s fun. It’s watchable. Not rated, but it might even be (gasp) family friendly–or close to it. “The Tell-Tale Heart” segment is stark black and white animation inspired by the art of Alberto Breccia. It also looks much like the animation from the game White Night. But the best part is that the story is told as a voiceover using a scratchy record of Bela Lugosi reading the story.


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Steven Berkoff

Hands down my favorite version is something I’ve seen only once–1992 on Bravo. It was Steven Berkoff (plays a lot of baddies, like in Beverly Hills Cop and Rambo: First Blood Part II). It truly is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen. I would argue even better than Vincent Price. You can find a couple of versions at Stevenberkoff.com–a feature film which I haven’t seen. I don’t know if the other version is the Poe-ly Grail I’ve been seeking. I have yet to break down and buy it. Pretty sure it’s just a matter of time. Anyway, he does the whole story as a monologue, and it’s just mesemerizing. The man does unhinged well, and his laugh after the line “a tub had caught all” is chilling. There’s also a version from his one-man show that I don’t like nearly as much, but at least you can find that one on the YouTubes.


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And that’s the list. It’s easy to do this story badly, so there are lots of things I’ve left off, and I’m sure there are many I’m not familiar with. If you have any favorites, let me know in the Comments. Otherwise I will assume that I’m just a Poe boy from a Poe family. As for the puns, well, I’m sorry, and I offer my sincerest aPoelogies.

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