Edgar Allan Poe Animated: Watch Four Animations of Classic Poe Stories

I can well imag­ine that the inser­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy into many of Edgar Allan Poe’s sto­ries would have a tremen­dous ben­e­fit for those sto­ries’ vic­tims, and a dele­te­ri­ous effect on their mono­ma­ni­a­cal plots. In one of the ironies of cul­tur­al trans­mis­sion, the time­less qual­i­ty of Poe’s work seems to depend upon its use of delib­er­ate­ly ancient meth­ods of sur­veil­lance and tor­ture. In a fur­ther para­dox of sorts, Poe’s work nev­er suf­fers, but only seems to shine, when tech­nol­o­gy is applied to it.

Film­mak­ers as esteemed as Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, and Fed­eri­co Felli­ni have adapt­ed him; sin­gu­lar dra­mat­ic tal­ents like James Earl Jones, Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee, and Lou Reed and Willem Dafoe have made fine record­ings of his most famous poem; The Alan Par­sons Project record­ed a pret­ty amaz­ing prog rock ver­sion of “The Raven,” the first rock song to fea­ture a dig­i­tal vocoder.

Poe also appears as an ani­mat­ed pup­pet, along­side Dick­ens and Dos­to­evsky, in a suc­cess­ful Frank Capra-direct­ed sci­ence edu­ca­tion film. This role belongs to a rich tra­di­tion of Poe in ani­mat­ed film. “The Raven” inspired one of Tim Burton’s first ani­mat­ed films, Vin­cent, at the top, about a boy who wants to be Vin­cent Price (nar­rat­ed of course by Vin­cent Price). The poem was also adapt­ed by The Simp­sons (above). South Park has fea­tured the mor­bid 19th cen­tu­ry writer, and Poe’s “The Pit and the Pen­du­lum” birthed an award-win­ning ani­mat­ed short, as well as an inter­ac­tive dig­i­tal com­ic book.

Even before his screen time in Capra’s film, shared with famous actor Eddie Albert, Poe appeared in ani­mat­ed film with movie stars. In the 1953 adap­ta­tion of “The Tell Tale Heart” above, a men­ac­ing­ly suave James Mason nar­rates the sto­ry. This take on Poe’s tale of mad­ness per­fect­ly cap­tures its near­ly gid­dy air of dread. The film, we wrote in 2011, “was giv­en a bizarre recep­tion” upon release, gar­ner­ing an “X” rating—the first ani­mat­ed film to do so—in the UK. The British Board of Film Cen­sors deemed the film “unsuit­able for adult audi­ences.” That said, it was nom­i­nat­ed for the Acad­e­my Award for Best Ani­mat­ed Short Film.

Above (with Span­ish sub­ti­tles) in a much lat­er work, a less famous but no less men­ac­ing, actor, Bil­ly Dra­go, nar­rates a stark retelling of “The Raven,” with a cen­tral char­ac­ter drawn like one of the homi­ci­dal creeps Dra­go typ­i­cal­ly plays on screen. Argen­tin­ian film­mak­er Mar­i­ano Cat­ta­neo remarks that he and fel­low direc­tor Nic Loreti focused on the idea that the speaker’s mys­te­ri­ous­ly lost love Lenore “might have been mur­dered and wants to come back,” cit­ing their influ­ences as “Ger­man expres­sion­ist films” and film­mak­ers like “Sam Rai­mi, George A. Romero, Tim Bur­ton, Robert Rodriguez, John Car­pen­ter and even Stephen King.” If not all of these cre­ators’ work is evi­dent, the influ­ence of Ger­man Expres­sion­ist film, par­tic­u­lar­ly The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari, cer­tain­ly is.

In anoth­er inter­na­tion­al adap­ta­tion, acclaimed Czech stop-motion ani­ma­tor Jan Svankma­jer uses high-con­trast, dra­mat­ic light­ing to very dif­fer­ent, impres­sion­ist effect to recre­ate the chill­ing despair of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Ush­er.  It is inter­est­ing that Poe’s work—obsessed with iso­la­tion and book­ish­ness and history—should have the effect it has on mod­ern media, par­tic­u­lar­ly on ani­ma­tion. But then again, Poe him­self was a tech­ni­cian, inter­est­ed not in the past for its own sake but in its use­ful­ness in achiev­ing a vivid “uni­ty of effect.” That his almost clock­work tales would make such excel­lent mate­r­i­al for such tech­ni­cal means of sto­ry­telling as ani­mat­ed film makes per­fect sense. But should you wish to return to the source of these humor­ous and grim adap­ta­tions, vis­it our list of the com­plete works of Edgar Allan Poe, in free eBook and audio book form.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load The Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Sto­ries as Free eBooks & Audio Books

Sev­en Tips from Edgar Allan Poe on How to Write Vivid Sto­ries and Poems

Gus­tave Doré’s Splen­did Illus­tra­tions of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1884)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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