Extraordinary Tales full movie review - Edgar Anthologized
Edgar Allan Poe has fascinated readers for decades in both his personal life and the stories he told. Many have combined both for some great movies, most notable Roger Corman with the Poe films he shot starring Vincent Price.
More recently was the film THE RAVEN featuring John Cusak as the tortured writer. Anytime word comes out of a Poe related film interest is high and so are expectations. So when I heard there was an animated feature involving a collection of short films based on his writings I was interested to say the least.
My hopes were satisfied with this film. Using various forms of animation the movie takes on several of Poe's classic tales of mystery and horror and gives them life on the screen. My only surprised was to find that the movie was released in 2013 and I had only just now heard of it. With the ton of bad movies playing in theaters one would think there would be room in a multiplex to show this one.
As with most anthology films there is a story tying them all together. Here it is a raven speaking to statues in a cemetery. It isn't long (and not a spoiler) before we gather that the raven is Poe's spirit and the statue is Death come to take him home after his passing. With each story we get more of a glimpse into Poe as he comes to grip with his death and fear of being forgotten.
The first story is THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and is presented in the current popular form of animation using computer generated images. Rather than go the route of trying to make them look like real people the style used here is reminiscent of THE CORPSE BRIDE with stylized features on the characters. The tale of madness that brings on the eventual end of the Usher family is well presented, perhaps more clearly than the previous version of this story told by Corman.
Second comes THE TELL TALE HEART. As with each of the following episodes here the style of animation switches to something more akin to a combination of standard and CGI animation. The story itself remains a gruesome one that may cause nightmares for younger children as they recall the eye of the victim staring at the murderer.
Third is THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR, a story of an attempt to delay death with dire consequences. Filmed once before in TALES OF TERROR, another anthology film this time directed by Roger Corman, both stand the test of time in relating horror in a graphic form. A cautionary tale of man's trying to play at being God is quite well thought out and presented here.
The fourth story is one most associate with Poe, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. What is interesting here is that the story is presented more in line with the written word as opposed to what Corman brought out in his film based on the same story. Torture and fear brought about by the Inquisition are on display here as a man contemplates his fate while a swinging pendulum continues to get closer and closer.
The last tale offered here is THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. This one goes a more artistic route in the animation style on display using more painted images than drawn or computer generated. My only surprise on this one was the loss of the character of Hopfrog whose image and fate were fairly gruesome as I recall.
I will say that not all of the styles of animation work to perfection and some will definitely be more easily accessible to viewers than others, but in the end the entire production is worthy of the subject matter. This movie would make a great introduction to the works of Poe for younger, though not too young, viewers. That they could take the written word and turn it into a film like this might inspire those young viewers to seek out the source material and who knows, maybe even get them to actually read.
Various stars read the material on hand as narrators including Guillermo del Toro, Julian Sands, Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi and even Roger Corman himself. While the stories tie together it offers a great way to change not just the style of the story but the way it is read as well. Yet another item that might inspire people to read the source material knowing it can be read in more ways than one.
In the end this is an inspired production that can be enjoyed by fans of Poe and those who aren't quite familiar with him just yet. It was enjoyable enough that I'll be adding it to my shelf here with the thought of pulling it out from time to time to enjoy all over again. I can't say the same for some animated projects out there. Hopefully more will discover this one.