While writing this review, Judge Daryl Loomis polished off an entire cask of Amontillado.
"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
Edgar Allan Poe may not have gotten rich off his writing, but his legacy as a poet and writer of the fantastic was assured before his death. One of the most beloved writers in American literary history, he is credited with popularizing the short story form and inventing the mystery genre. On a personal level, he was one of the first people responsible for getting me so into the tales of the macabre that I love so much. He was not, however, the kind of romantic peach with a heart of gold that he is portrayed as in The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the worst biopics one is ever likely to see.
After growing up in a foster family following the death of his young mother, Edgar Allan Poe (Shepperd Strudwick, All the King's Men, as John Shepperd) had stints in college and the military. None of that stuff worked, though, because his heart was always on the page. Things really kicked off for him when he found his muse in his 13-year-old first cousin, Virginia Clemm (Linda Darnell, Hangover Square). After their wedding, Poe began writing some of his best work, but her untimely death would prove to be his undoing.
I'm not generally all that big on biopics in the first place, but when they play as fast and loose with the facts as happens in The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, they just become plain silly. Certain historical events remain in place, like his purposeful court martial and his time at various journals, but everything else is put together like a fictional Poe written by a bad romance novelist. Things like a young Poe wandering through a scary forest and looking curiously at a raven are eye-rollingly dumb and the narration that takes us through large portions of his life is simply lazy.
It's no surprise, then, to find out how completely it glosses over the negative aspects of his life. They state that Virginia is his cousin, but they make no mention of her age since, unless you're Jerry Lee Louis, marrying children became a lot less cool than it was in the early 19th Century. His disease and booze-ridden years after her death is told in the last three minutes of the movie. Shoddy, just really shoddy.
I thought I'd give it a shot because I really like Linda Darnell, but she's completely helpless under the weight of the awful screenplay. Shepperd Strudwick is worthless as Poe, mostly just playing the role as a brilliant, but misunderstood, aristocrat. We even get casual appearances of historical figures in Thomas Jefferson (Gilbert Emery, Dracula's Daughter) and Charles Dickens (Morton Lowry, The Picture of Dorian Gray), but they're token appearances of less than a minute a piece. There's nothing here but a total waste of an hour, but at least it's only an hour, and I'm thankful for small favors.
The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe arrives on DVD from Fox under their Cinema Archives label. It looks average for what normally comes out under the on-demand marker, which means it isn't horrible, but not great, either. No restoration work has been done on the print, so it's slightly damaged with fairly weak contrast, but it's certainly not as bad as some older prints out there. The mono sound has a bit of noise throughout, but the dialog is always relatively clear. There are no extras on the disc.
There are dumb biopics and then there's The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe. I genuinely love Linda Darnell most of the time, but she's entirely wasted here, just like my time. But, hey, at least it's really short.
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