Movie Review: EXTRAORDINARY TALES

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extraordinary tales
Gkids
2013
NR

“I don’t want my work to be lost forever. My work is eternal. I want that eternity. I want to be sure my words will survive me, that they will never be lost in time.”

  • Five of Edgar Allan Poe’s best-known stories are brought to vivid lifeĀ in this visually stunning, heart-pounding animated anthology featuring some of the most beloved figures in horror film history.

Edgar Allan Poe. Any aspiring fan of the dark and morbid tales of yore know the name. I’m pretty certain that a collection of his short stories and poems are issued to you the moment you show any interest in the Goth subculture. I know I was. I remember the first time I encountered the stories of E. A. Poe: it was 7th grade Lit.*, and my teacher Mr. Wilberding describing the story of “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Of course, these stories are golden oldies trotted out every Halloween season; I, however, think that–like Halloween itself–these should be celebrated and read year-round.

Which brings us to the anthology movie Extraordinary Tales. This is a movie that takes five well-known Edgar Allan Poe** stories and animates them, each of them with a different animation style, and narrated by a different actor who has ties to the horror community as well. As a long-time horror enthusiast, I felt obligated to give this thing a watch.

There’s a wrap-around story involving a raven (of course) that supposedly represents the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, having a bit of an existential discussion with a graveyard statue, worrying about whether his stories will live on long after he’s dead and gone. We then begin with “The Fall Of The House Of Usher”, which is narrated by the late, great Christopher Lee. The animation is flat, with CGI that looks like the finest a Playstation One game can provide. It’s not bad, just “eh”. The second story is “The Tell-Tale Heart”, which is narrated by none other than Bela Lugosi. How did this happen, you may ask? After all, as the song goes, Bela Lugosi’s dead. He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead. A long time ago, I might add. Well, this sounds like an old recording he did reading the story, and the old lo-fi scratchy sound of the recording actually enhances the animation style employed on this one. “The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar” is a nice creepy and ghoulish tale that is narrated by Julian Sands, who was in the movies Warlock and Arachnophobia. This one’s animated style recalls the classic pulp comics, with the main character animated to look like Vincent Price. Neat. “The Pit And The Pendulum” is narrated by Guillermo del Toro, and if I have to explain who he is, you’re reading the wrong blog. The animation style is standard CGI, and to be forthright, this isn’t my favorite short story of his to begin with. I realize Edgar Allan Poe took liberties with historical accuracy with this story (who doesn’t, really), but the situations still make no sense to me no matter how many times I read this. The visuals here didn’t help things. And finally, we end with perhaps my favorite of all of Edgar Allan Poe stories, “The masque Of The Red Death”. Here, there’s no narration, but does feature the voice work of one Roger Corman as Prince Prospero, in the tale of the rich and prosperous locked inside a castle and partying while a nasty plague ravages the country. Given that I happen to be writing this at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic and all the panic that comes with it, this has the added bonus of being a bit close to home.

As adaptations go, they’re pretty standard. I should point out that the stories themselves were truncated, so you don’t really get the full stories. And neither do the adaptations have enough time to let the stories breath, like with Roger Corman’s famous adaptations from the 1960s. But, Extraordinary Tales works as a good perfunctory introduction to the works of one of the more legendary American authors of the Romantic Gothic period. And anything that works as a gateway drug to becoming a reading junkie gets my enthusiastic support.

[*kids, back then, that was short for “Liturature”, and not “exciting”, or “excellent”, although for nerds like myself, you might say Lit. class was actually “lit”]

[**you can’t just say “Poe”; you need to say his full name for full effect]

HALLOWEEN’ING 2016: Day 16 – Once Upon A Midnight Scary

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halloweening-2016-logo

once-upon-a-midnight-scary-cover

Second obscure 1970s Halloween TV Special, here, and this one stars the legendary Vincent Price as the host of three vignettes culled from three different horror novels. Since this was technically part of a series called CBS Library, there was a bit of a thinly-veiled experiment in “edutainment”: disguising education as entertainment. This was designed to inspire viewers to dig into reading. Which, as a life-long voracious reader, is something I can totally get behind.

Noble intentions aside, the only thing that holds this hour-long (47 minutes without commercials) television special is Vincent Price. The three shorts are based on the stories “The Ghost Belonged to Me” by Richard Peck, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, and “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” by John Bellairs. They’re not the entire stories, mind you; they’re culled to whet the appetite for reading. Or something. Thing is, the acting and effects are what you would expect for something like this: Sub-par and uninteresting. But, it’s good for a nice campy night of retro Halloween television special watching. It was released in VHS format back in the 1980…but it’s all over YouTube, so save some money and check it out there.

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Movie Review: The FLY (1958)

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1-19 - Movie Review: The FLY (1958)Twentieth Century Fox
1958
NR

“No, Helene and Andre believed in the sacredness of life. They wouldn’t harm anything…not even a fly.”

Scientist Andre Delambre becomes obsessed with his latest creation, a matter transporter. He has varying degrees of success with it. He eventually decides to use a human subject, himself, with tragic consequences. During the transference, his atoms become merged with a fly, which was accidentally let into the machine. He winds up with the fly’s head and one of its arms and the fly winds up with Andre’s head and arm. Eventually, Andre’s wife Helene discovers his secret, and she must make a decision whether to let him continue to live like that or to do the unthinkable and euthanize him to end his suffering.

The Fly is one of those 20th Century science fiction classics that seems to remain in the public conscience as one of the more popular of the genre. Myself, I’m of the generation that was introduced to The Fly by way of David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake, and getting around to watching the 1959 original was delayed due more to my sense of, “Eh, that’s old, so it can’t be any good than this one here” than being able to find it to watch. Even as I got older and developed a way better appreciation for the classics of the genres I love so very much, it took maybe longer than it should have before I finally forced myself to sit down and watch this iteration of The Fly. And let me tell you, I’m glad I did that.

Based on a 1957 short story, and told mainly in flashback, we find a scientist working on a kind of matter transporter device for the benefit of humanity or some crap like that. After success with inanimate object, he then tests a cat, which doesn’t end very well, and then decides the next step would be to test on a human subject, because what does logic have to do with science? He’s then suddenly reclusive, having not come up from the lab for a few days, and when his wife shows up to investigate why, she’s in for the shock of her life. Usually, one would insert an exclamation point at the end of that last sentence, but I’m not a fan of those, so feel free to mentally insert one in there yourself as you read it over. There. Moving on, it seems that, when the mad doctor (because at this point, you’ve got to go ahead and accept the title) tested the teleporter himself, seems there was a house fly that decided to come along for the ride, and now he has the head and one of his hands of a fly, and that fly that came with him has the doctor’s head. Again, go ahead and juxtapose an exclamation point at the end of that one, as well.

Overall, I found this version of The Fly to be rather enjoyable. The acting was decent, something of a bit more serious than your standard B-Movie level of acting. Vincent Price is always enjoyable, and here as the brother to the scientist. This is more like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone made on a better budget at the time, rather than your shock-o-ramma sci-fi schlock. The spider-web scene is one of those highly iconic scenes that have been referenced and parodied to good effect over the years (my favorite being in one of the Tree House Of Horror episodes of The Simpsons back in the day), and is known about even if you haven’t ever seen the entire movie, like I did. And now that I have watched the movie, I can cross it off my list of WATCH THIS NOW BEFORE YOU DIE movies, and urge you all to check it out yourselves if you haven’t already.

HALLOWEEN’ING 2014: Day 20 – The Muppet Show w/ Vincent Price

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Due to a very unscheduled emotional breakdown that came out of nowhere, I’m afraid that all I really am up to doing tonight is curling up with a book about space zombies (I’m not making that up), so tonight’s instalment of HALLOWEEN’ING is the episode of The Muppet Show that guest starred the late, great Vincent Price:

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