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Price reads Poe in an astounding compilation of stories
I wasn't expecting much from this film. It comes in a double pack with Roger Corman's "The Tomb of Ligeia", which is how I came across it. I bought the DVD purely for the Corman film and saw this merely as a bonus - but to my surprise, it almost surpassed the film I bought the double pack for. The idea of an actor sat on a set reading out stories doesn't sound particularly fascinating; until you consider that the writer of the stories is the magnificent maestro of the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe and the actor doing the reading is the one and only Vincent Price: then, suddenly it becomes rather more intriguing. An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe features Vincent Price reading four of Poe's stories - The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum.
The first story on that list is perhaps my favourite of Poe's works, and Price does a great job of reading it. The malevolent tones of his voice draw you into the story and don't let go until it ends. The Tell-Tale Heart sees Poe at his most adept, and the way the story moves echoes the beating of the heart in the story. We then move on to The Sphinx, which is definitely the weakest of the four stories; but that's not to say it isn't a great little tale. It's surprisingly funny for Poe, and Price does another excellent job of reading it. The Cask of Amontillado sees Poe back to his most devilishly wicked, and features the common Poe theme of being buried alive. The story features lines of dialogue between two characters, which means Price has to read both out and the way he does it is superb. You get all the madness of the central character, and the menacing tones of the story from the sound of his voice. The final tale is 'The Pit and the Pendulum', and this is a Poe classic that speaks for itself. Many will remember Corman's excellent take on it, but here we get the original story just as Poe wrote it - and it's quite different from Corman's! The Pit and the Pendulum features what is maybe Poe's finest line ever, and you're guaranteed to get a chill down your spine when Price delivers it - "the agony of my soul found vent in loud, long and final scream of despair".
Price really proves his worth as an actor in this movie. It takes a lot of talent to keep the audience's interest when all you're doing is sitting and reading out stories - but Price does it. He doesn't just deliver the stories; he practically becomes them. He's the perfect storyteller, and he shows us that here. Maybe it's his voice, or perhaps it's the obvious love he had for the material but whatever the reason; this is an excellent telling of Poe's works and if you get the chance to see it - I insist that you take it.
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