On April 27, we'll see John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe in "The Raven," a fictional thriller about a serial killer inspired by the author's work. The movie not only marks an unusual dark turn from the usually sunny Cusack, it also comes as the first major Poe-related film in more than 40 years.
Once upon a time, though, Poe was a go-to guy for Hollywood horror flicks (even though he died in 1849). In the 1960s, his works were being adapted to the screen more often than Stephen King's are now, racking up at least nine movies during that decade. Most were low-budget efforts directed by B-movie king Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price, but they're still widely regarded as the definitive adaptations of Poe's macabre works. The 1960 movie "House of Usher" is even in the National Film Registry.
How will "The Raven" stack up against past Poe movies? Here are a few to consider:
From the folks who brought you the exploitation flick "Marihuana" comes this Z-grade gem loosely based on Poe's "The Black Cat," about a man who murders his wife. This version goes in for some mad-scientist hokum and gratuitous shots of barely clothed women; it also was released as "Sex Maniac."
"THE RAVEN" (1935)
Cusack's movie owes a small debt to this Universal Pictures shocker, which stars Bela Lugosi as a doctor with an unhealthy passion for Poe. Boris Karloff plays the helpmate.
"HOUSE OF USHER" (1960)
This Corman classic is set in a mansion of madness overseen by the doomed Roderick Usher (Price). Corny but effectively creepy, with a wild, hellish ending that still packs a punch.
"THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM" (1961)
Before "Saw" came this morbid Corman production starring Price as the son of a Spanish Inquisition torturer. Though it bears little relation to Poe's original story, it became a surprise hit among both audiences and critics.
"MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE" (1971)
Another meta-Poe movie, starring Jason Robards as a modern-day theater director whose production of the famous story is going fatally awry. Look for Herbert Lom, the beleaguered chief inspector of the "Pink Panther" films, as the villain.