Edgar Allan Poe created a body of work that will seemingly never go out of style, especially around Halloween time. Not only do his stories and poems still inspire dread in the 21st century, but so also do the many hundreds of Poe retellings and adaptations created in the 166 years since the author’s mysterious death. But, we might ask, after so many film adaptations from so many classic horror actors and directors, whether we need yet another one? You’ll have to make up your own mind, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll watch the trailer above for Lion King and Aladdin animator Raul Garcia’s Poe anthology Extraordinary Tales and answer “Yes!” and “More please!” And you can see more, in the clips below from Garcia’s incredible-looking film, hitting theaters on October 23rd.
One reason the new treatment of the five stories Garcia animates seems to work so well is that they draw on the talents of actors and directors who have previously delivered classic Poe retellings. For example, "The Fall of the House of Usher," above, is narrated by the late, great Christopher Lee, who joins horror legend Vincent Price as one of the greatest readers of Poe's "The Raven." The voice-over is Lee’s last role, and it’s hard to think of a more fitting final act for the venerable horror maven. (Lee was also at the time recording “a heavy-metal-rock-opera based on Charlemagne’s life”—one of many metal albums he recorded.)
Garcia has created a unique look for each featurette. For “Usher,” he tells Carlos Aguilar at Indiewire, “the idea was for the characters to look as if they were carved out of wood, like if they were figures that belonged to Czech animator Jirí Trnka.” Just hearing Lee above intone the phrase “an unexpected sense of insufferable gloom” is enough to convince me I need to see the rest of this film.
Just above, we have a clip from a much less famous Poe story, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” a chilling detective tale about a man mesmerized in articulo mortis—at the moment of death. Narrated by English actor Julian Sands, who has made his own appearances in several horror films, the animation style comes directly out of classic E.C. horror comics like Tales From the Crypt, which drew many an idea from Poe, basing one story “The Living Death!” on “M. Valdemar.” The "mauve, yellow and mossy green comic-book panels," writes a New York Times review, "prove that you don’t need fancy technology to achieve a third dimension."
You’ll notice the unmistakable visage of Vincent Price in the character of the mesmerist, and you’ll likely know of Price’s own turn as Poe himself in An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price also starred in Roger Corman's many Poe adaptations—beginning with House of Usher—and Garcia has tapped the legendary Corman's voice for Extraordinary Tales, as well as contemporary horror director extraordinaire Guillermo Del Toro. And if this weren’t horror royalty enough, Garcia’s animated take on “The Tell-Tale Heart” features none other than Bela Lugosi, in an archival reading of the story the Dracula actor made sometime before his death in 1956. Read more about how Garcia found the Lugosi audio and conceived of Extraordinary Tales in his interview here.