I have watched all of the Poe films in full! It'll take long to review them all, but I have a good method...This post was also posted on Red Death Productions (with another comment. It was an "Usher Twins Double Post."). Happy New Year!
(THE FALL OF THE) HOUSE OF USHER
Edgar Allan Poe's most famous story is given wonderful treatment in this dreary, nightmarish film. Myrna Fahey is lovely and creepy as Madeline, Mark Damon is wonderful as our dashing hero, and Vincent Price delivers a classic performance. An amazing film and one of the best in the cycle. A surprisingly faithful film, Poe-fans will adore House of Usher.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
The best of the Poe-Price-Corman films (with The Masque of the Red Death), this film is perfect in every way. It is the best possible Halloween film, and Price delivers an amazing performance as the crazed son of an Inquisitor. Plot twists, enormous set pieces, amazing acting, and that final shot make this one of the best movies I have ever seen and one I will cherish forever. The quintessential film for...well, everybody!
THE PREMATURE BURIAL
Infamous for being the only in the Poe Cycle not to star Vincent Price, this unjustly criticized film is very well done. Slower-paced than the rest of the series, The Premature Burial has a wonderful performance from Ray Milland (of Dial M for Murder) and a surprisingly good performance by Hazel Court (she was iffy in Masque of the Red Death). Eerie sets, wonderful direction, and a classic script by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell make this a truly good film. Yes, we all would like to see Price, but Milland is great too!
TALES OF TERROR
[There are three pictures because there are three segments.]
Instead of taking a short story and making it 80 minutes, Roger Corman and Richard Matheson decided to make three vignettes based on Poe. The first one, Morella, is the poorest (and the acting of Maggie Pierce? So melodramatic!). The second, The Black Cat (which is combined with The Cask of Amontillado), is comedic and very good (it also features Peter Lorre!). The finale, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, features Basil Rathbone as a devilish hypnotist. The best of the three segments!
Taking a comedic turn that bears no resemblance to the Poe story (except one awful gag), The Raven is an outrageous spin on the poem, featuring Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff. A kind-of funny film, it details the battle between three sorcerers - Bedlow (Lorre), Craven (Price), and Scarabus (Karloff). It DOES feature a pretty funny performance by Hazel Court as Lenore. Good acting and a light-hearted script makes this film rather enjoyable.
THE HAUNTED PALACE
Actually based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward with the title of a Poe poem, The Haunted Palace is a wonderfully creepy film. There is a rather...inappropriate scene: Vincent Price's character, Charles Dexter Ward possessed by Joseph Curwen, rapes his wife Ann (Deborah Paget). A great script, astounding direction, great production design, and an amazing score by Ronald Stein makes this a truly memorable film (YES, I know I've said that a lot!).
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH
The most horror-movie-esque of all Corman-Poe flicks, this tale of torture, madness, Satanism, love and death, sadism, orgiastic parties, and "dreary - but acceptable - fact that, in the end, we've got to grin, bear it, and kick the bucket" make this movie the best in the Poe Cycle (with The Pit and the Pendulum). While it is not very faithful, Red Death is considered to be AIPoe's/Roger Corman's magnum opus, plus a chillingly evil performance by Vincent Price as Satan's servant, Prince Prospero. While missing the point of the story, which is of the elitist nature of the Prince, Red Death is a very fine film and is a classic today.
THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
Infamous for being the last of the Poe Cycle (and noted for it's outdoor sequences), director Roger Corman wanted to change his method with Tomb of Ligeia. He broke free from his Freudian theories he had held during previous Poe films and filmed large, open-aired scenes. Something about those new techniques didn't quite click - sadly, since the film would've been so good with the old theories. But Tomb of Ligeia is a very good film, with great performances from Price and Elizabeth Shepard. John Westbrook also makes an appearance here, and he had previously done a wonderful performance as the voice of the Red Death (I say voice because when the Red Death was unmasked, it was Price. But in every case but that, he was the body of the Red Death, also.). A very good movie.
The Roger Corman Poe Cycle was done. But in 1970, AIP did...
AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
Filmed before a live studio audience, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe featured Price reciting/performing The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum. This is no easy task, but Price does it well, and (in the case of the first and third "acts") it actually seems as if he has committed the crime. A chillingly good time, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe is something anyone can watch but only Poe/Price fans will appreciate. Definitely a good Halloween flick.