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Review: Extraordinary Tales (2015)

Extraordinary Tales (2015)

Directed by: Raul Garcia

Premise: An anthology of short animated adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe including “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Masque of the Red Death.”

What Works: Extraordinary Tales is an effective cinematic telling of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. The tales are told through animation with each story read by a distinct narrator. Some of the readings were produced specifically for this project and others are archival recordings. In some cases the stories have been edited down and the filmmakers show good judgement about what parts of Poe’s original stories to keep and what to cut. This avoids redundancies between the visuals and the audio. Each segment captures the flavor of Poe’s work, both its horror and its humor, while providing a distinct interpretation of it. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is narrated by Christopher Lee. The actor’s reading is among the best and most dramatic in the collection. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is read by Bela Lugosi. The story is presented in a stark black and white animation that is very unsettling and matches the archival recording of Lugosi’s reading. “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” is read by Julian Sands and has a more straightforward animated style, at times looking like a comic book, and it uses color very well. This segment also includes an homage to actor Vincent Price, who starred in many Poe adaptations released in the 1960s.  Guillermo del Toro provides the narration for “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The animation style is much more realistic than the other segments and it has a vibrant visual texture that captures the entrapment experienced by the condemned man awaiting his execution. The final story of Extraordinary Tales is “The Masque of the Red Death.” This segment has the most elaborate visuals in the anthology and it is produced with a traditional animated style but without narration, except for some incidental dialogue, and communicates the entire story visually. Extraordinary Tales has an effective music score by Sergio de la Puente and Javier López de Guereña. The sound of the music is generally uniform throughout the film but the score of each segment is distinct enough to suit each particular story.

What Doesn’t: Each segment of Extraordinary Tales has a distinct animation style. Some of the animation is better than others. The visual style of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is inconsistent with some images looking cartoonish. Extraordinary Tales also includes a frame sequence of a raven in a graveyard talking to a statue. It’s implied that the bird is the reincarnation of Edgar Allan Poe and the statue is the Grim Reaper. The animation of this scene is especially poor and the exchanges between the raven and the statue aren’t very revealing. The movie just doesn’t need it.

DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary track, and a trailer.

Bottom Line: Extraordinary Tales offers an outstanding collection of animated interpretations of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories. It’s creepy but also creative and offers a range of approaches to the material. Fans of Poe should definitely check it out.

Episode: #721 (October 21, 2018)