Friday, June 17, 2016

Being Edgar Allan Malkovich, or Thoughts on John Cusack in The Raven

There have been three movies to date entitled The Raven that were inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe; the 1935 version starred Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, who plays a mad doctor obsessed with the author.  The 1963 version (my favorite) once more featured Boris Karloff, along with Peter Lorre and Vincent Price, in a movie about three wizards and the eponymous black bird.  The Penny Dreadful/Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)/Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) trend of taking literary characters and creating new fictions and adventures about them brought about the third Raven (2012), featuring the author chasing a serial killer recreating his fictional murders in pre-Civil War Baltimore.
John Cusack is perfectly cast as Edgar Allen Poe; he has the physical presence that when combined with a goatee, dovetails nicely with the photographs and artwork of Poe we’re already familiar with.  He portrays the author as a hard drinking, opera cape wearing, morose proto-goth who can’t pay his bar tab, which to be fair, coincides with the historical accounts.  The movie is reminiscent in tone of Sleepy Hollow (1999), arguably Tim Burton’s last great movie, and another gothic murder mystery.
There are locked room murders, a razor sharp (CGI) pendulum, and references to all the stories you are familiar with, if not from high school then by reputation.  The period dialog is shaky, slipping in and out of contemporary language and direct quotes from Poe’s letters and works, however the costumes and subtle details like lighting and interior design are spot-on.
From director James McTeigue, Ninja Assassin (2009, one of my favorite guilty pleasures) and Nicole Kidman’s Invasion (2007), and featuring Luke Evans, Bard from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) as Inspector Fields, investigating the murders.  With Brendan Coyle, aka Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey as Reagan, Poe’s neighborhood bartender, and look out for Pam Laura Thyme/Smithy's Mum Ferris, who you remember as Miss Trunchbull from Matilda (1996) and Aunt Marge from Harry Potter, as Mrs. Bradley, an aspiring poet and admirer of Poe.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.