EDGAR ALLAN POE'S TALES ON FILMby Tony-Scheinman | created - 21 May 2012 | updated - 12 Nov 2016 | Public
The below-listed films are those I consider to be the best (not necessarily the closest) adaptations of tales by Edgar Allan Poe.
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1. Fool's Fire (1992 TV Movie)
60 min | Drama
A crippled dwarf is forced to become jester to a tyrannical king, but when the king abuses a beautiful dwarf with whom the jester is in love the jester plots a terrible revenge.
A short film by Julie Taymor adapted from the story "Hop-frog" - absolutely magnificent, with the two "dwarves" (Hop-frog and Trippetta, played wonderfully and wth true humanity by "little people" Michael J. Anderson [of TWIN PEAKS fame] and Mireille Mossé being the only really human characters with the so-called "normal" characters played by actors/actresses in exaggerated puppet suits! The script closely follows the story, with a few Poe poem additions, so pay close attention!
2. The Tell-Tale Heart (I) (1953)
Passed | 8 min | Animation, Short, Crime
A madman tells his tale of murder, and how a strange beating sound haunted him afterward.
Nominated in 1954 for the Academy Award, and deservedly so! Not only does James Mason provide a chilling yet humorous narration, but who could have believed that eight minutes of animation could rivet a viewer so?
3. Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Not Rated | 80 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
In the sixteenth century, Francis Barnard travels to Spain to clarify the strange circumstances of his sister's death after she had married the son of a cruel Spanish Inquisitor.
Votes: 10,681 | Gross: $2.00M
While not strictly adhering to Poe's story, I have to say that this is one of the best of the Corman Poe films. Richard Matheson's script, as usual, does a masterful of of story-telling (and at least in THIS one the house doesn't burn down in a sequence that is used over and over again in later films to save money!), and Vincent Price's performance is one o fhis best, running a range from griefstricken to uncertainty to torment to unrestrained insanity. Watch for the wonderful twist at the film's end!
4. Masque of the Red Death (1989)
R | 85 min | Horror, Thriller
With a deadly plague ravaging his Renaissance kingdom, Prince Prospero invites his friends to retire to the protection of his castle for ongoing revels, leaving the peasantry to die. But ... See full summary »
While less regarded than its 1964 predecessor, I feel that this one version comes closest to what Poe was driving at. While considered a "re-make", it's more restrained and more thoughtful, and it's not as easy to gleefully dislike Adrian Paul's Prospero as it is Vincent Price's ... in fact, there are moments here when less is definitely more. The final destruction has its own beauty without relying on the costumes and music, as was the case in the 1964 film.
5. The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986 TV Movie)
PG | 100 min | Crime, Mystery, Horror
A detective comes out of retirement to help his daughter's fiance prove that he did not commit a series of murders.
DEFINITELY one of the best adaptations of this story and certainly the closest! George C. Scott is excellent as Dupin and I wonder how Val Kilmer feels these days about his protrayal of Dupin's godson who becomes his assistant in the investigation ... personally, I think he's very good. However, Rebecca De Mornay as Dupin's daughter? I'm not sure if she was disserviced by the script or by the casting director, but her role could have been done better. Ian McShane is perfect as the out-of-his-depth Prefect of Police, and this production has the advantage that it was actually shot in Paris!
6. Tales of Terror (1962)
Not Rated | 89 min | Comedy, Horror, Mystery
Three tales of terror involve a grieving widower and the daughter he abandoned; a drunkard and his wife's black cat; and a hypnotist who prolongs the moment of a man's death.
There are supposed to be three adaptations of Poe stories in this film, but it should really be considered FOUR, as "The Cask of Amontillado" and The Black Cat" are condensed into one story. The first story, "Morella", is a disappointment and ends predictably; one might think that it was the last to be chosen or filmed and thrown in as an afterthought. Both Vincent Price and Peter Lorre are superb in "The Black Cat", which contains ghoulish humor that Poe himself might have loved. The final story, "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", with a few screenplay differences (Valdemar is married and the story's mesmerist, played by Basil Rathbone, is totally evil), is a very fine adaptation of the original story.
7. Spirits of the Dead (1968)
R | 121 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
Anthology film from three European directors based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe: a cruel princess haunted by a ghostly horse, a sadistic young man haunted by his double, and an alcoholic actor haunted by the Devil.
As with TALES OF TERROR, this only gets a two-out-of-three in my opinion. "Metzengerstein" changes the gender of the story's protagonist from male to female, but it sets up a more interesting dynamic and Jane Fonda does a fine job. The best of the three, "William Wilson", is excellently done, with Alain Delon as the title character and also keeps to the original story. "Toby Damnit", however, remains a mystery to me as to why this screenplay was even included and where Fellini's head was when he did this (I understand that Terence Stamp wasn't even the first choice for the title character).
ABC Weekend Specials (1977–1995)
The Gold Bug
Not Rated | 45 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Shortly after the Civil War, while exploring the long deserted and reputedly haunted Sullivan's Island off Charleston S.C., a boy encounters two obsessed eccentrics living there. These men ... See full summary »
"The Gold Bug" is a story that is not adapted very often due to the complexity of the explanation that takes up a quarter of the book. This adaptation, while not completely following the story, has a Poe-like theme of obsession that the master would have loved. The physically and vocally commanding Geoffrey Holder and a young Anthony Michael Hall star. Well worth the viewing.
9. An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970)
Unrated | 53 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
Vincent Price recites four Edgar Allen Poe stories: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum.
Vincent Price both narrates and plays four different roles in what might be considered a one-man show ... and EXTREMELY WELL!
10. Zánik domu Usherú (1982)
15 min | Animation, Short, Horror
In this animated version of Edgar Allan Poe's story, a traveller arrives at the Usher mansion to find that the sibling inhabitants are living under a mysterious family curse: The brother's ... See full summary »
A stop-motion animated version of "The Fall of the House of Usher" with no actors and an off-screen reading of the story as accompaiment.
11. Kyvadlo, jáma a nadeje (1984)
15 min | Animation, Short, Fantasy
A horrifying, surrealist version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" directed by the masterful animator Jan Svankmajer.
Another animated adaptation of Poe from the mind of Jan Svankmajer, this time of "The Pit and the Pendulum", and very well done too without a single word of dialogue.
12. The Raven (2003)
11 min | Horror, Short
Writer/director Peter Bradley brings Edgar Allan Poe's classic horror poem,THE RAVEN, to chilling life in a faithful, word-for-word adaption. Based not completely in reality, but not ... See full summary »
An as close to perfect transfer of the poem to film as I've ever seen!
The Simpsons (1989– )
Treehouse of Horror
TV-PG | 30 min | Animation, Comedy
The Simpsons move into a cursed house, then are abducted by aliens, before Homer is ensconced in a tale by Edgar Allen Poe.
While the idea of Homer Simpson's "Poe" facing off against Bart Simpson's "Raven" on the face of it might have Poe spinning in his grave, it really is a most entertaining and faithful adaptation of the poem.
14. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Not Rated | 89 min | Horror
A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the "Red Death" plague that stalks the land.
A masterpiece of color, movement and music, with Price in one of his most compelling portrayals. Combining "Masque" with the story "Hop-frog" actually works here, and the tormented Charles Beaumont delivers a surprisingly powerful screenplay.
15. House of Usher (1960)
Not Rated | 79 min | Drama, Horror
Upon entering his fiancée's family mansion, a man discovers a savage family curse and fears that his future brother-in-law has entombed his bride-to-be prematurely.
While Richard Matheson's screenplay shifts the focus somewhat away from the tormented soul of Roderick Usher and opens up a backstory that might not have been necessary, this, the first of the Corman/Price Poe films, is a masterpiece and proved that less can be more.
16. The Tell-Tale Heart (1991 TV Short)
30 min | Short, Crime, Horror
Before a presiding magistrate, a doctor, a stenographer and a crowd of onlookers, a supposed madman tells how he committed a particularly horrible murder.
Steven Berkoff delivers a tour-de-force portrayal of madness as he tells the story before a presiding magistrate and a crowd of on-lookers. A little-known made-for-British-Television version that should be more well-known and one of the best versions of the story
17. The Fall of the House of Usher (1976)
At the urgent request of his friend Roderick Usher, a man journeys to the strange House of Usher but becomes enmeshed in the darkness that threatens to destroy not only the last remaining family members but also the very house itself.
Possibly the closest and best adaptation of the story I've ever seen. Wish it was available on VHS or DVD ...
18. Extraordinary Tales (2013)
Not Rated | 73 min | Animation, Horror, Mystery
An animated anthology of five tales adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's stories.
Five short stories, each animated in a different style, with wonderful voices narrating (the highpoints being Sir Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi!). Worth seeing, not just for the different animation and the voices but also for their faithfulness to the stories.