Edgar Allan Poe cast a long shadow on both mainstream and genre fiction, becoming the patron saint of the genre and its poster-boy until the critics discovered H.P. Lovecraft.
And still, every year, on the outskirts of Halloween, popular culture remembers the first American master.
This year, I celebrated Poe’s memory with a wonderful movie.
Written and directed by Spanish director Raul Garcia, Extraordinary Tales is a 2015 anthology movie, collecting five fine adaptations of Poe’s most popular stories, five short animated movies each strikingly different from the others.
So, yes, it’s a cartoon.
And it’s stunning.
Each episode has its own distinctive look and feel, and each one features some extraordinary voice talent.
If Christopher Lee narrates The Fall of the House of Usher, then Bela Lugosi (yes, that Bela Lugosi) lends his voice to the striking black-and-white nightmare of The Tell-Tale Heart.
Lugosì’s old voice recording (a radio drama from 1940) features a hiss that compounds the atmosphere of the story.
Then we get Julian Sands narrating the disquieting Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (certainly the most “comic-book-like” episode in the movie), and director Guillermo del Toro, lending his voice to The Pit and the Pendulum.
The anthology closes with The Masque of the Red Death, garishly colored and narrated only by the haunting soundtrack. It is fitting that the only words spoken in this short are voiced by Roger Corman, whose name will be forever connected with Poe’s.
The five episodes are framed by scenes set in a graveyard, where Poe, in the form of a raven (Stephen Hughes), talks philosophy (and what’s left of sa writer after his demise) with Death herself.
I was surprised at finding that the voice of Death was provided by German best-selling writer Cornelia Funke (whose lessons I followed as part of my old course on Transmedia Narratives – small world, what?)
All in all, I found Extraordinary Tales to be a nice, elegant, visually stunning adaptation of some well-known stories.
Ideal for the days in the long tail of Halloween, if you missed it.