Post image for DVD Review: AMERICAN MASTERS: EDGAR A. POE BURIED ALIVE (PBS Distribution)

by Dale Reynolds on November 20, 2017



The ultimate reason for the poet/short-story writer Edgar Allen Poe’s demise at age 40 was not clear in 1849, when the press reported his death, nor is it totally clear today, although this documentary by Eric Stange attempts to make it so.

Broadcast this year on PBS’s American Masters series, Stange fills in much of the writer’s early years, his marriage to his much younger cousin — thirteen-year-old Virginia Clemm — his brilliance at inventing the detective genre (“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”) and glorifying the horror/gothic genre (“The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Fall of the House of Usher”) as well as setting new ground in poetry (“Nevermore,” “Annabelle Lee”).

A somewhat self-destructive man, who was orphaned early and semi-adopted by a childless couple who should have remained childless, he tried his hand at a wide variety of careers, including a short stint at West Point. But he knew he was to be a writer (he is now widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism and a developer of the short story).

Using actor Denis O’Hare as Poe, and with narration by Kathleen Turner, the documentary, nicely photographed by Boyd Estus, well-edited by Peter Rhodes, and with readings by Chris Sarandon and Ben Schnetzer, is entertaining and informative.

What writer/director Stange is unable to do, as it turns out, is to firmly defend how Poe ended up in the Baltimore hospital, dazed and dying. But what of? Alcohol poisoning, perhaps, brain congestion, cholera, drug overdose, heart disease, rabies, suicide, or tuberculosis. All questions then and now. Never to be answered.

Even for then, forty was young. So we don’t definitively know what killed him (or who), but we do have dozens of his works to remind us of his literary genius, wishing him a better life for himself, but giving us much to ponder.

It’s a strong PBS doc which capably fills us in on who the great author truly was.

American Masters: Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
PBS Distribution
DVD | 84 minutes
released October 31, 2017
DVD available at Amazon and PBS

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