Edgar Allan Poe
R: David W. Griffith. K: G.W. “Billy” Bitzer. D: Herbert Yost (=Barry O’Moore), Linda Arvidson, Arthur Johnson, Robert Harron. P: American Biograph. USA 1909
Print: National Film Library / EYE
“The first Poe movies, which include two from DW Griffith (Edgar Allan Poe, The Avenging Conscience), tend to wrap the author into his work, presenting him as a protagonist living out the plots of his tales and poems – especially in that old standby ‘The Raven’. It is a theme that continues through the 1942 biopic The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe to a 1994 short version of ‘The Black Cat’.
These films tend to conflate Poe’s cousin/wife, Virginia Clemm – who died young of consumption after a fairly grand guignol incident when blood vessels in her throat burst while she was singing in the parlour – with the dead but restless women of his fictions, though Poe wrote that ‘the death of a beautiful woman is the most poetical topic of all’ well before his marriage. He may have been attracted to Virginia because she fulfilled his fantasies as much as inspired them.
It is still possible to write Poe’s name into a movie title like a possessory credit, even in the case of films he had nothing to do with (such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Cry of the Banshee). Although he worked in a great many genres – he can lay claim to the invention of the two major strands of detective story, puzzle and psycho-drama, was a major figure in the proto-history of science fiction and essayed early efforts in that still controversial area where fiction, hoax and journalism combine – Poe’s cinematic reputation rests on his contribution to the horror film.”
Kim Newman: Poe’s eternal life
The Guardian, 9 July 1999
>>> The Avenging Conscience on this site: Back to Nature
>>> The Pit and the Pendulum (Part I)