Synopsis: Brace yourself for a fearsome fright fest… times four! Maestro of Mayhem Vincent Price narrates this quivering quartet of Edgar Allan Poe’s most spine-tingling classics, including: “The Tell Tale Heart,” “The Sphinx,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Dripping with gruesome , live burials, monsters, madness and murder most foul, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe will chill you to your very marrow!
eyelights: the creative direction of “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Vincent Price.
eyesores: Vincent Price’s overly theatrical performance. the static direction of the first shorts.
If you like storytelling, then you’ve been served: ‘An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe’ is a 1970 television special starring Vincent Price that shows him recounting four Edgar Allan Poe short stories in his inimitable way. The 52-minute production in one of the first efforts by director Kenneth Johnson, whose claim to fame are ‘The Bionic Woman’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘V’ and ‘Alien Nation’.
But don’t expect a sparkling presentation filled with action and thrills: ‘An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe’ is quite literally a one-man-show, with Price changing outfits and sets for each of his four pieces, but narrating his tales solo without the help of any other actors. Or effects. For the most part, it’s very much akin to watching theatre on public access television: simple, static, and low budget.
By far the most creative of the lot is the fourth Act, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, which finds Price in a dungeon setting, but with the proceedings enhanced by dreamlike effects like blurriness, changes in colour, fade in/out. It also had a few inserts like fire, smoke, rats and even shadowy cutouts in the foreground in lieu of an actual Inquisition. Johnson was certainly going for a strong finale.
Act 3, “The Cask of Amontillado”, was also interesting in that Johnson chose to show close-ups of Price’s right side when he spoke as Fortunato and his left side when he spoke as Montresor. And when he was just narrating the story, it was a simple medium shot of Price, made up as an older man, sitting at a large, opulent 19th century-style dining table with candelabras on either side of him.
But Act 1, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and Act 2, “The Sphinx” were fairly bare-bones.
Price’s performances were solid, but they often took on a larger-than-life quality that can be expected from storytelling, to entertain the audience. So when Price is gleefully rubbing his knees in an effort to act slightly mad, it’s clear that it’s done for the audience’s benefit – especially those at the back of the room. But it didn’t lend the effort much credibility, trading subtle eeriness for theatrics.
Ultimately, ‘An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe’ is a nice way to reacquaint one’s self with Poe, and it’s certainly memorable in its own right, though it’s not always entertaining. One has to enjoy the tales being recounted to appreciate the production as there’s quite literally nothing else going on – save for Vincent Price’s skilled storytelling. Thankfully it’s only an hour, not actually a whole evening.
With Poe, one wants to die of fright, not tedium.
Date of viewing: March 16, 20127