October Horror Movie Challenge: AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE (1970)


If you’re in the spirit for something a little bit different this season, might I suggest AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE? It’s pretty much what it says on the box: four stories penned by the original American master of the macabre, all performed by Vincent Price. Shot for television, these adaptations by David Welch and director Kenneth Johnson are very faithful to the original works, seeing as how this is essentially an episode of reader’s theater with Price reciting the yarns almost verbatim with a minimal amount of costumery, set design, or other types of theatrical flair. This is not to say that the production is without its charms. If you’re taking the time to sit down and watch the thing, you know exactly what to expect and, happily, that is what you get. Price’s intimacy with Poe’s tales, having worked with Roger Corman on the AIP adaptations that made him nearly synonymous with the tortured Bostonite, comes through wonderfully in his recitations here, letting the words roll off his tongue with a Shakespearean flourish that is heartening to listen to. The actor is just a touch ripe at times; we’re essentially seeing Price in what may be his most unfiltered form seeing as it is he who is center stage here, dictating all narrative action and dialogue through his orations. His inherent theatricality is therefore particularly robust in this production and it may not be to everyone’s taste (even I found his “The Tell-Tale Heart” a little too manic), but in the end these are the most minor of grievances in light of the feast of entertainment that’s packed into this hour-long special. Price shows his greatest strengths in his rendition of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” perfectly conveying the narrator’s quaking terror and hyperactive voice as he stumbles from one delirious torture to the next. The film might look unassuming and passable to the naked eye, but in here we see the essence of Hallowe’en brought to the screen, that of telling scary stories in the dark.

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