Record label Caedmon Audio specialized in spoken-word recordings, pairing great literary works with great actors. They got James Mason to read the poetry of Robert Browning, multi-Oscar winner Walter Brennan to read the works of Mark Twain and Sir Laurence Olivier to read Winston Churchill.
But there were a couple releases, later compiled into one glorious CD set, that is so head-slappingly perfect that it requires special attention: Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price read the works of Edgar Allan Poe over the course of 5 hours. Rathbone was, of course, a South African-born Shakespearean actor who is most famous for playing Sherlock Holmes in a string of films (watch one here) and radio plays, though he was also a veteran star of low-budget horror films like The Black Sheep and Tales of Terror. Vincent Price was, well, Vincent Price – the iconic cackling villain in dozens of horror flicks including Roger Corman’s campy cinematic adaptations of Poe – The House of Usher, The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death.
The Caedmon recordings, which are now available on Spotify (download the software here) and can be heard below, are pretty much Poe’s greatest hits – from “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Pit and Pendulum.” Poe’s gothic gloominess pairs brilliantly with Rathbone and Price’s sinister baritone.
So get into your favorite smoking jacket, get a fire started, pour yourself a stiff glass of absinthe, set aside a good block of time, and have a listen.
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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.