Nevermore said the raven, Nevermore. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven was first published in January of 1845 and has emerged as his most often quoted works. It concerns an unnamed scholar and Lenore, the scholar’s lost love who first surfaced in the poem “Lenore” in 1843. But who was Lenore and how did she die? That is the idea played with in the forgotten little film The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe.
Opening on a tree with the words “Edgar loves Lenore” carved into it; we are introduced to Adam Forrest who claims to have known Edgar and the elusive Lenore.
We are then introduced to Edgar as he is being chastised by his employer for his writing. Lenore, his faithful lover, advises him to concentrate on writing poems and stories. After running through a gothic garden together, she passes out and appears dead. After the opening credits and a cheesy 70’s ballad ala “Love Story”, we find ourselves at the funeral. Edgar is not doing well and dives into the open grave with her casket. As he sobs over the grave, much to the chagrin of those around, we peer inside to find Lenore awakening. She is alive and about to be buried alive! Edgar hears her and with the help of his friends, he forces the casket open with strange results. She has gone mad and her hair turned white with fear.
Poor Poe now must commit her to an insane asylum that’s run by the Joker himself, Caesar Romero as Dr. Grimaldi. Edgar spends his nights at the asylum, drinking and thinking about Lenore. One late night he decides to descend into the bowels of the asylum and is attacked.
As his friend Dr. Adam Forrest (Tom Drake) and the orderlies search for him, Edgar wakes in a secret basement, chained to a table. A large snake slithers across him as the room is filing with water and Dr. Grimaldi walks in and secretly releases him.
Dr. Grimaldi concocts a story to make Edgar look a fool and orders them to leave. We learn that Dr. Grimaldi wants to use Lenore as a guinea pig and is quite excited about it. Meanwhile, Forrest and Edgar talk and decide to sneak back in and investigate. Forrest isn’t buying the Dr.’s bullshit and wants answers.
They wander in the darkness by candlelight, finding nothing of interest. Edgar begins to look for Lenore deep within the asylum. It just so happens that she is strapped to a table as the not so good Dr. prepares to experiment on her. Deep within the asylum, Poe and Forrest battle insane inmates and macabre situations as they struggle to find Lenore. But will they find her in time? This is a strange little film. Almost completely forgotten (even on the internet), it plays like a slow paced Gothic nightmare. Clearly inspired by the Corman Poe films but done with less skill and excitement.
Robert Walker is droll as Poe (yes I too am a poet ), who walks around in a state of catatonia as if he was in a BBC film. He is likeable and you will find yourself rooting for him. Tom Drake as Forrest, the narrator and side kick comes off as a man who must bear the burden of Poe’s friendship and Madness.
I never liked Caser Romero, not as the Joker (we all could see your whited out mustache), and not now. He plays a real sleaze and seems really at home doing it. Mary Grover has the easiest role as Lenore. She really only has 10 minutes of screen time and half of those are done zombiefied. We feel for her and Edgar because let’s face it, we can all relate to losing something.
Though there is no record of Lenore the person, many suggest that Lenore was actually created to represent his young wife Virginia, who died after just two years of marriage. Others believe that she is a lost unrequited love. Who or whatever she was, it mattered to him.
The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe is not an exciting film or a scary film. It is however, a film that goes nicely with a cup of hot tea on a quiet evening. Nothingmore…nothingmore.