by Martin Unsworth
The series of movies the legendary Roger Corman made in the sixties that were inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe have been rightfully reappraised over the years. Whether it’s the sight of Vincent Price majestically owning the screen, the anthologies that feature more horror legends, or the luscious colours and sets, there’s something in these films for everyone. Chris Alexander’s book mixes film analysis with Corman’s thoughts, with interview segments with the director to get some great insight into each film.
Some of the anecdotes Corman gives are fascinating, and he’s very honest about the movies. He also talks generously about the actors and the other behind-the-scenes crew that worked on them. He gleefully recounts how he came up with The Terror, which was made on the sets of The Raven. It ended up having multiple directors (including co-star Jack Nicholson), and while not in the Poe/Corman franchise is still worth checking out. Also amusing is Roger bemoaning the fact that the British crew he hired for The Masque of the Red Death (which included the legendary Nicolas Roeg behind the camera) worked too slowly for his usual fast-paced – and money conscious – style.
Chris Alexander’s summing up of each film is a welcome part, too. He gives frank and honest opinions on each film and doesn’t shy away from criticism, which is refreshing considering Corman’s input in the book. His appraisal of The Pit and the Pendulum, for example, features an interesting story about one of the actors who claimed to have directed the film himself!
As a bonus of sorts, the correspondence received from the American ‘censors’ the MPAA, regarding The Masque of the Red Death is also included and makes for fascinating reading. A gallery section highlights some of the various posters from around the world. A worthy addition to any fan’s collection.
Corman/Poe is published by Headpress and available as a limited edition hardback only from their website.