More Blu-Ray Poe-Pourri For 2014
Halloween Harvest and Corman/Poe/Price
There were eight Edgar Allen Poe adaptations directed by Roger Corman for American-International release. Six are available on Blu-Ray under Vincent Price umbrella, which doesn't bode well for Premature Burial in similar clarity (will it join the others eventually as a single?). The Corman/Poes are films which must be seen wide. Scan/cropping destroys them. TV was ruination for the lot until TCM began running them letterbox. When I collected 16mm, there were virtually no scope prints that hadn't turned red. Eastman processing had bad ways of doing that. My Pit and The Pendulum showed faintest blue even in dream scenes tinted entirely in that color. But at least the thing was scope. Flat prints were cropped and horrid. Schools would too often rent these and give a bad show as result. My college had an Interim course that used the Cormans to illustrate movie departures from Poe text. I peeked in on a clattering 16mm and better than half of carefully composed frames shorn throughout. Was Roger Corman aware of abuse to his work? We're happily done with that now, but wait --- there's 20th Fox selling On-Demand discs of Cinemascope titles on same putrid format. A pox on that!
70's exhib Mike Cline of sterling Then Playing site remembers his drive-in run of Premature Burial (apx. 1977) as a crimson tide --- all but one color gone and the print in rugged shape besides. AIP used to run the Poes like herd of cattle through kid shows and all-night drive-inning, five in a serve for dusk-to-dawn marathons. The series had happy afterlife beyond tail-off that was Tomb Of Ligeia in 1965. Dan Mercer and I looked at that one over the weekend. He considers it a best of the lot. Parts were shot on English countryside, with centuries old housing for Vincent Price residency. Ligeia may actually have been too good for its own good. The Poes by '65 were stuff of teen/child attendance, sort of what you got on flip side of AIP beach blankets. They'd be spoofed outright, with Pit/Pendulum stock footage assist, in Dr. Goldfoot and The Bikini Machine, which came within a year of Ligeia, and hadn't Corman himself kidded the lot with Tales Of Terror's middle and all of The Raven? Tomb selling was strictly in spook terms as with all since initial Poes, elevated quality gone unapplauded. I Liberty-went after memorizing the Dell comics tie-in, a summer '65 near-miss of Ligeia recalled years back at Greenbriar (did anyone else want side-panel sunglasses like VP wore? I searched stores, but could never locate any).
Some of best money to be realized by Poes came from television, debased as they were by that ancillary market. Sam Arkoff hoped for network sales and lucrative licensing that entailed, but Pit and The Pendulum would be an only primetime Poe, ABC running it 12/10/69, and again on 5/17/70. CBS used House Of Usher (9/19/72) and The Haunted Palace (10/9/72) for its weeknight Late Movie, result being the two, plus Pit and The Pendulum, being out of a package AIP offered to local stations in mid-1972, focal point of which was remainder Poes with "King Of The Occult, The Weird, The Horrible" Vincent Price. It's less often noted that Nicholson/Arkoff continued mining Poe after Corman was done with him, but these lacked distinction RC's had: War Gods Of The Deep, more a copy of Jules Verne than Poe, The Conqueror Worm, well-regarded now, traumatizing then, Murders In The Rue Morgue, with a good cast but nevertheless a stiff. Continuity, if not quality, seemed lost after the "official" eight, but AIP topper Jim Nicholson remained proprietary re Poe as late as 1972: "Edgar Allan Poe may not have known he was writing for American-International, but almost every title of his that we have dramatized has attracted a loyal following."