We’re nowhere near Halloween, but for some reason mid-March I found myself in the mood for spooky stories, and few people have done those as well as Edgar Allan Poe. So, I was delighted to discover a Poe-based film to watch on Netflix: Extraordinary Tales (2013).
Featuring animated vignettes based on five Poe stories, Extraordinary Tales opens with the man himself — in the form of a raven, of course — having a conversation with death. This conversation continues between the telling of Poe’s stories, exploring some of the common morose themes of his work.
The five stories featured are:
- The Fall of the House of Usher, narrated by Christopher Lee
- The Tell-Tale Heart, narrated by Bela Lugosi
- The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, narrated by Julian Sands
- The Pit and the Pendulum, narrated by Guillermo del Toro
- The Masque of the Red Death, with voice acting by Roger Corman
Raul Garcia directs this anthology with five distinct styles of animation. Valdemar is reminiscent of a comic; Usher looks as though it’s been cut from paper; Pendulum looks like a video game.
I greatly enjoyed Christopher Lee’s narration of Usher. His voice is fantastic and so distinctive. Of course, an archival reading from Bela Lugosi for The Tell-Tale Heart is also a highlight. Lugosi is a genuine legend and his narration is very spirited, making the segment a ton of fun to watch. He sounds like he’s having fun reading it!
The stories could be told in an eerier fashion (the creepiest part, to me, was actually the conversation between raven-Poe and Death), but all of the segments are still plenty of fun to watch.
I enjoyed the fact that the focus, despite the many gorgeous displays of animation, was on the stories themselves. With the exception of Red Death, each story is told in Poe’s own words, in excerpts from his stories.
Red Death features my favorite of the animation styles — it looks like a living painting. However, it is the only segment not to contain full narration.
My least favorite segment, though I enjoyed del Toro’s narration, was The Pit and the Pendulum. The animation style just didn’t appeal to me or help draw me into the story the way all of the others did.
If you’re a fan of Poe and have seen many of the adaptations of his work, this one offers something a bit different. Though somewhat uneven and highly dependent on the viewer’s preferences for animation and narration styles, I would recommend Extraordinary Tales for a quick, fun, and lightly spooky watch.