Friday, October 4, 2013

Edgar Allan Poe Volume I: Annabel Lee

Edgar Allan Poe Collection, Volume I: Annabel Lee (2008)
Dir. George Higham, Alfonso Suarez, Peter Bradley
Starring Thunderbirds, Paul Naschy

This trilogy of short films -- which I picked up off Netflix because the description said it was hosted by Christopher Lee, which it definitively is NOT -- showcases a kind of interesting idea: a surreal version of Poe’s poem Annabel Lee acted out by puppets. As I’ve pointed out before, the power of Poe’s work lies so much in the artistry of his language that visually depicting them often strips much of their power, but I like the idea of a more expressionistic, less realistic approach. If done well, illustrating his work with animation or puppets might well have the ability to meld nicely with Poe’s evocative poetry in a dreamlike way that live action would have a hard time with.

Unfortunately, this one does not do it well. It does it badly. Astoundingly badly. Let me ask you a question, you like Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee, right? It’s a sensitive, profoundly heartbreaking evocation of the depth of human love, loss and despair, yes? So when you visualize it, you don’t really jump to a garishly lit, Argento-esque gorefest populated by naked cenobites, do you? I thought not. Me neither. Seems like not the best idea, if I may be so bold. But then wait, it gets better, because you also probably don’t imagine the poem being intermittently read (it’s only 6 verses, and the film is 20-some minutes) by a teenager trying to sound like he imagines Glen Danzig would if he read verses from the Satanic Bible. And then you also got someone playing music who seems determined to try every single keyboard tone, one after another. Not sure if this was supposed to be symbolic of something but to me it symbolizes and also embodies being terrible. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Poe is right to look extremely skeptical

Not that there’s not stuff to like here. I mean, the puppets and sets are really well done, in a BEING JOHN MALKOVICH sort of way. It’s obvious that someone worked really hard to get the details just right. Unfortunately the details are just completely wrong for this particular project. Interpreting Annabel Lee as a story of Poe and his beautiful bride (who does not appear to be 13 or his cousin) frolicking happily on a sunny beach, and then having her soul stolen by cenobites, then having him go on a quest to find her and in the process becoming a zombie just doesn’t fit with the themes of the poem or it’s notable style of not sucking. I can only assume that director George Higham has an uncle or something who owns the distribution company, because even if Christopher Lee had actually been in here this is not something anyone puts on DVD. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t also include a feature-length documentary about the making of the film (roughly three times longer than the actual film) or a mind-blowing two separate commentaries by the director, because why stop at one when there’s so much more to say? Fittingly, there’s also a two-slide written biography of Poe, because, you know, respect.

This is an actual still from the adaptation of Annabel Lee, I shit you not.

Fortunately, the other two short films on this disc are much better. First we have a telling of THE TELL TALE HEART which in typical Poe fashion is completely and utterly unrelated to the actual story, but still pretty good thanks to some nice gothic direction and a fun crazy performance from Paul “The Mexican Lon Chaney” Naschy. Then we have a vaguely film-noiry reading of The Raven, depicted fairly literally but with a decent performance by the young fellow who plays the lead, and a laudably stylized paperdoll raven puppet. It’s a little amateurish in some way (a portrait of Lenore which keep changing expressions feels right out of Where’s Waldo) but Poe’s words are strong enough to carry the day and create a piece which, at long last, gets Poe’s tone right. It’s a welcome pleasure, but definitely too small of one to be worth suffering through Annabel Lee for. Even in a collection dedicated to a true master of sadistic torture, that seems a little much.

PS: Don't take my word for it! Take a look at this highlights reel and bask in the hilarious shittiness!

Or, if you value your sanity, try the Raven instead, it's shorter and possible to watch without your eyes bleeding.


  • LITERARY ADAPTATION: Yup, three Poe adaptations. Brutally adapted.
  • SEQUEL: Looks like the first in a series, judging from the name. I won't be making it to part II.
  • REMAKE: No
  • MORE CUSHING FOR THE PUSHING? No, although they falsely promised Christopher Lee
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: None. Poe, maybe.
  • BOOBIES: Do I remember seeing puppet boobies? Hopefully not.
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: I think Poe puppet looses his legs. Seriously.
  • ENTRAILS? I don't... think so, but maybe. I remember it getting pretty gnarly.
  • ZOMBIES: Zombie Poe? Do puppets count?
  • CURSES: No
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Really, really high, thank God.
  • ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE: She literally went to sleep in protest.


  1. "Not sure if this was supposed to be symbolic of something but to me it symbolizes and also embodies being terrible. "

    Kudos, gentlesir, on an excellent line. Put that one in the Portable Joe Weeks.

  2. EXCUSE ME. But this was watched before the commencement of Chainsawnukah season. IT CANNOT COUNT TOWARDS MY FINAL SCORE.