THE DEATH OF POE
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Kevin G. Shinnick
What's it about
In late September 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was discovered in the streets of Baltimore. These were the last few days of his life as his struggle with alcohol and the heartbreak of his recently dead wife haunted him; and most likely lead to his death.
Is it good movie?
I was not a fan of Mark Redfield’s
cheapie production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
. I thought it was amateurish and painfully dull. So when I saw his name atop of the title The Death of Poe
, I wasn’t terribly thrilled, in fact I was terrified. But I did my best to be fair and not bring in potential negative bias. And so the question is; was I successful or moreover, was the film successful in my eyes? Truthfully, I am still not a great fan of Mark’s work. The “theatricality” of it is very present here with sparse settings and a staged quality to many of the scenes which works some of the time. And I did appreciate the creativity this time around much more. The film is shot in black and white using color only for certain moments, including flashbacks. I also really enjoyed some of the strangely blurred POV shots of Edgar Allan Poe at his weakest, late in the film. This may also have been because the last twenty to thirty minutes are the most compelling moments.
If case you hadn’t guessed from the title, the film delves into the final days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life. Seemingly as historically accurate as it could have been, with what we know of the writers death. You see him desperate for money and haunted by the death of his young wife, Virginia. I felt the idea of exploring his last days was a very good one, but it might have been nice to see more of him in a happier time because it might have made his descent all the more powerful. But we are introduced to a heartbrokenly sick man from love and alcohol and that’s all there is folks, because there is really nowhere to go from there. I can see what Mark Redfield was doing here as director and actor, after all, it’s more “challenging” to play misery and despair. But I felt very little until the final moments he has in a hospital with a doctor and his wife played by Kevin G. Shinnick
and Jennifer Rouse,
. These moments of humanity gave the film more depth than just a miserable man falling deeper into his own private hell.
Sadly much of what was problematic in Mr. Redfield’s Jekyll and Hyde appears here. Most notably the problems lie with some very amateurish performances that felt more like bad Community Theatre. The actors ranged good to awful, with a couple of strong performances from the leads, yet many of the supporting players bringing the production way down. I also feel that as good an actor Mark Redfield is, I don’t feel that he is quite good enough to take on both the directors’ chair and putting himself in as the lead character. It seems at times the good performances are in spite of his direction. And although this was a major distraction, I still feel that this film was an improvement over his pretentious version of Jekyll and Hyde.
Video / Audio
Video: A good full screen 1.33:1 transfer for the quality of the movie.
Audio: The Dolby Digital is okay but really tends to be the tell-tale heart of the low to nothing budget, with the audio not mixed terribly well.
The special features are where this 3-Disc set stands out. Even with my lack of excitement for the film, there is much to admire here.
On the first disc, aside from the feature, there is The Making of “The Death of Poe” (19:32) which begins as Mark Redfield discusses how the film came about while the movie plays out on a screen behind him. This featurette gives some insight on the film, but it is a bit dull after awhile. It is still worth a look.
Also on this disc are previews for Cold Harbor (2:47), Despiser (1:56), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1:42) and finally, Just Add Pepper (1:12).
Now the second disc is where things get a little more interesting with the exception of Poe’s Baltimore (3:20), a short video tour of… you guessed it, where Poe hung out in Baltimore. This felt like a Benny Hill skit without the sex. But fear not, things get much better.
In The Haunting of Poe House (15:12), which is part of an episode of Creepy Canada, we hear tales of ghostly apparitions of Poe. Now, your enjoyment of these may depend on your tolerance and belief of such things but I found this intriguing. The spookiest part for me was the last known portrait of Edgar’s wife Virginia, which was supposedly a painting of her corpse.
The final treat on this disc are two silent films; the first is The Raven (45:32), a bio pic about Poe’s life. It is a quirky little film that tries to cover as much of his life as you can for that short of time. Sometimes it works and other times, the message that alcohol is bad gets old (I’m not kidding). This silent also has commentary with Mark Redfield and he lets you in on much of the history of Mr. Poe, it’s too bad this commentary is more interesting than his film.
And the last silent film is The Avenging Conscience (56:19). This film is directed by the legendary director D.W. Griffith. The story takes elements from Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Annabelle Lee” and pulls it off pretty well. But for both of these silent films, you have to be able to handle this kind of thing. The music used for both is by Jennifer Rouse and it feels a bit too melodramatic at times. Halfway through the film I put on my own music and it made it a much more interesting watch. But whether you like her music or not, these silent films are a great look back at the early days of Hollywood.
The final disc with this DVD is a CD featuring readings of several Poe stories read by Mark Redfield. This guy has talent, but man, does he like to have his name, voice, and image everywhere he can. He reads the stories well, but the sound quality is not terribly great on this disc. Yes it is still a good way to hear Poe’s classic stories without actually reading them.
Mark Redfield has a lot of talent, but it seems that he tries to hard to do too much. His films feel like somebody filmed a local theatre troop doing a play with no budget for set design or very much else for that matter. The actors are much too varied in talent to not take you out of the moment, and in turn makes viewing the productions a task in itself. But Redfield’s work has improved here, The Death of Poe is more creative than his earlier work and the last twenty-five minutes (give or take) have some depth to them. Yet I still think that this would probably be more entertaining on stage than on film. “Quoth the Raven…” eh, maybe next time it’ll be better.