It’s been quite the busy week, and last night I finally found myself with both time and opportunity to take in some more visual entertainment. Having lamented the fact that I somehow managed to miss The Raven while it was in the theaters, I decided instead to explore another, shorter movie which was mentioned by more than a few people as a Poe-related movie much preferable to Raven, which is The Black Cat. Although the 1934 film must certainly be incredible (Béla Lugosi AND Boris Karloff??), it was the 2007 short film by Showtime, starring Jeffrey Combs as Poe, which was favorably mentioned to those who might fancy The Raven.
The Showtime short was an episode of a less-than-memorable series titled “Masters of Horror”, but was given high praise as one–if not the best–of the series. And I must admit, it was quite chilling to watch. If you’ve read Poe’s original story, you’ll recognize this as a parallel version where Poe himself takes the place of the narrator. It uses the effects of Poe’s continually drunken state to create a wonderful hallucinatory narrative that kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. Word of warning to those who are averse to gore: there are a number of moments in the story (if you’re not familiar) which require gory action. It’s done somewhat crudely in my less-than-seasoned opinion, but it doesn’t cut away and let your imagination fill in the blanks, which is worth mentioning.
I believe the memory of The Black Cat was invoked in the wake of The Raven because the former does what many expected of the latter. In The Black Cat, you spend an entire hour walking in Poe’s shoes, living in his head, experiencing his nightmares, his love, his fear–everything. It’s a tortured mindview, to be sure. Raven, by contrast, appears to protect the viewer from all but the end results of Poe’s feverish imagination, in favor of creating a “whodunnit” where Poe is merely an advisor.
As I said in my pre-review, I plan to enjoy The Raven for the kind of movie it actually is, rather than the kind of movie people expected it to be. In the meantime, however, The Black Cat was quite a mad ride. It’s just under an hour, and available for streaming on Netflix. If you’re a fan of Poe, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.