CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: STEPHEN COOKSON / SCREENPLAY: STEVEN BERKOFF, STEPHEN COOKSON / STARRING: STEVEN BERKOFF, HUGH SKINNER, DUDLEY SUTTON, HENRY GOODMAN / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 11TH
It’s one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories and has been adapted for the screen numerous times. Steven Berkoff tackles the tale of a man driven to madness (while protesting his mental illness too much) by the glacial eye of ‘the old man’ with whom he shares a large house with faithful flair. Even expanding the short to feature length doesn’t mean Berkoff and director Stephen Cookson have taken the liberty to deviate from Poe’s perfect tale like other adaptations have.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a first-person account of how a man meticulously killed his housemate while protesting his sanity. This version has the feel of a filmed stage play. The wonderful sets and evocative, moody lighting add a great deal to the often over the top, gurning hysterics of Berkoff, who as ‘the man’ is perfectly maniacal and completely engaging. The vulture-eyed unfortunate is played by the late Dudley Sutton, and while it’s a limited role, he certainly throws his all into it. The real horror of the story is presented in full as the man commits his wicked deed and is particularly graphic when depicting the disposal of the body!
The Gothic surroundings are perfect for the grisly nature of the tale and the cinematography impeccably captures the sense of insanity of Berkoff’s performance, channelling German expressionism and parlour theatrics in a magnificent display of delicious ham. It’s arguably this in-your-face first-person presentation - while very faithful to the original text - won’t be for many people’s taste, it’s an engrossing and deliberate adaptation that gets across Poe’s macabre genius while showcasing Berkoff’s captivating performance.