The sto­ries of Edgar Allan Poe were good to Vincent Price’s career. His string of Poe-derived vehi­cles for American International Pictures were dri­ve-in and tele­vi­sion peren­ni­als from the 60’s well into the ‘70s and ensured his sta­tus as one of the great cel­lu­loid faces of the hor­ror gen­re.

AnEvEAP-01However, his purest inter­pre­ta­tion of Poe’s work didn’t come from the­se movies — instead, it appeared in an A.I.P.-produced tele­vi­sion spe­cial called An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe. The con­cept is as min­i­mal­ist as it gets: Price appears in full cos­tume and make­up on a series of four dif­fer­ent sets as he does dra­mat­ic read­ings of four Poe sto­ries: “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Sphinx, “The Cask Of Amontillado” and “The Pit And The Pendulum.” There are no attempts to extend the sto­ries into t.v. or film-length nar­ra­tives: it’s just the orig­i­nal tales, slight­ly abridged but tak­en direct­ly from the orig­i­nal text.

And it works like a dream, a beau­ti­ful­ly dark dream.

An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe is a suc­cess for two rea­sons. The first is Price him­self. Like a lot of hor­ror stars his age, he had stage train­ing and the mate­ri­al and set­ting allow him to draw on his full the­atri­cal pow­ers. The melo­dra­ma and fre­quent flash­es of dark humor inher­ent in the­se Poe stoAnEvEAP-02ries are ide­al­ly suit­ed to Price’s thes­pi­an skills and he wrings each tale for all the dark mag­ic it can offer. His work on “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit And The Pendulum” is par­tic­u­lar­ly vivid, using just his expres­sive­ness with voice and facial expres­sion to con­jure an array of grim moods and imagery.

The oth­er rea­son is the inspired han­dling of director/co-adaptor Kenneth Johnson. Shooting on video in a mul­ti-cam­era style, Johnson uses his edit­ing scheme, shifts in close­ness of angle and peri­od­ic cam­era moves to fol­low the shifts in ener­gy of Price’s per­for­mances. His visu­als are bold when they need to under­line a par­tic­u­lar act­ing flour­ish but oth­er­wise exist to sup­port Price’s the­atri­cal fire­works. Johnson would go on to a long career in gen­re tele­vi­sion via shows like The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk and V and this pro­duc­tion rep­re­sents the seed from which that career grew.

Simply put, An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe is a must-watch for fans of the author and Price. It offers a con­cen­trat­ed dose of their com­pli­men­ta­ry skills that shows off each artist at their purest.