An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe

I chanced upon this the other day and couldn’t resist posting it here.  It’s a short (52-minute) film featuring the wonderful Vincent Price in  a one-man show consisting of dramatic recitations of stories by Edgar Allen Poe: “The Tell-Tale Heart“, “The Sphinx“, “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum“. As a huge fan of both Price and Poe I don’t really understand why I’ve never seen this before. This film was made in 1972, by which time his acting roles were largely self-parodying, playing  camp villains in hammy horror films, roles I might add that he played with matchless gusto despite the often low quality of the scripts. But in this movie, filmed in front of a live audience, reminds us what a fine actor he was, his theatricality perfectly appropriate for Poe’s writing.

The whole movie’s a bit longer than I’d usually post in a blog item, but at least watch all of the first story which starts

TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?

Hmm.

Anyway, they just don’t make them like Vincent Prince any more…

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11 Responses to “An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe”

  1. I too am a big fan of Vincent Price, ever since being scared out of my wits by the Abominable Dr Phibes as a child (also a fan of hammy horror). Thanks for posting this (I’ve not seen it before either).

    As an aside, while 11 years old, Vincent shares the same birthday (May 27th) as that other great horror actor, Christopher Lee. Coincidentally, Peter Cushing was born on May 26th.

    • telescoper Says:

      The film that got me hooked on Mr Price was this one:

      http://telescoper.wordpress.com/tag/the-fall-of-the-house-of-usher/

      which I think is a masterpiece now, but which scared the crap out of me when I first saw it as a kid.

      Vincent Price made many films (including House of Wax, Theatre of Blood, Journey into Fear, etc) extremely enjoyable because of his ability to send himself up without losing his natural acting ability. He certainly did camp exceptionally well. But he was an exceptional serious actor too and I do regret that he wasn’t offered more challenging roles. See, for example, how good he is in the classic film noir Laura made in 1944, which coincidentally I just watched (again) on DVD this evening.

  2. Back to astronomy, it seems that Poe was the first to offer the correct explanation for Olbers’s Paradox:

    “No astronomical fallacy is more untenable, and none has been more pertinaciously adhered to, than that of the absolute illimitation of the Universe of Stars. The reasons for limitation, as I have already assigned them, a priori, seem to me unanswerable; but, not to speak of these, observation assures us that there is, in numerous directions around us, certainly, if not in all, a positive limit — or, at the very least, affords us no basis whatever for thinking otherwise. Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us an uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy -–since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all. That this may be so, who shall venture to deny? I maintain, simply, that we have not even the shadow of a reason for believing that it is so.”

    This is just a small part of a long essay on many topics:

    http://books.eserver.org/poetry/poe/eureka.html

  3. telescoper Says:

    If you want another reason to admire Vincent Price, listen to this speech he added to the end of a radio broadcast of an episode of “The Saint” (he played Simon Templar in the series):

  4. For heavy-metal fans, here a quote from Wikipedia regarding Vincent Price being too expensive for Iron Maiden: “The track opens with a spoken introduction which draws entirely from the King James Version of Revelations 12:12 and 13:18, read by actor Barry Clayton.[13] According to Dickinson, the band originally approached actor Vincent Price to record the passage, but asked Clayton after Price insisted on a fee of £25,000.”

    Nomen est omen. :-)

  5. I’m not usually wild for the various Poe film adaptations, but I love this one. Price and Poe were made for each other.

  6. “his acting roles were largely self-parodying, playing camp villains in hammy horror films, roles I might add that he played with matchless gusto despite the often low quality of the scripts”

    When I was a wee lad (very wee), I was a fan of the Batman television show. The word “camp” could have been invented for this show, which is unlike anything else before or since. I remember Vincent Price as Egghead, one of the hammy villains.

    http://batman.wikia.com/wiki/Egghead_%28Vincent_Price%29

    Most of the villains were played by quite well known actors and actresses, and even Peter would have warmed to Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.

    http://batman.wikia.com/wiki/Catwoman_%28Eartha_Kitt%29

    • telescoper Says:

      Indeed, Eatha Kitt was totally fabulous.

    • Another interesting tidbit concerning the 1960s Batman television series: The actor who played Bruce Wayne/Batman, Adam West, was actually asked to play James Bond, but declined on the grounds that Bond should be played by one of Her Majesty’s subjects. They hired Connery again instead. Not quite Ronald Reagan instead of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, but almost.

  7. [...] Last week’s post about Vincent Price reminded me of the film that really established him as a movie actor, the classic film noir Laura, in which he played the parasitic boyfriend of the eponymous heroine. If you’ve never seen the film, you should because in my opinion it hasn’t dated at all even though it was made in 1944. A song with the same name written for the film in 1945 (after the filming was completed) became a popular hit at the time as well as a favourite for jazz musicians, spawning numerous cover versions including one by the great Charlie Parker. Those of you who associate Bird with jagged frenetic bebop tunes might be surprised to hear his take on this romantic ballad, particularly as it involves him playing with strings. The Charlie Parker with Strings session received mixed reviews from the critics, primarily because many of the arrangements are a bit bland, but while  I don’t like all these tracks, I do think Parker’s version of  Laura is a gem in which he  reveals a tender and romantic side to his music making that isn’t often appreciated. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

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