Here we are once again my dear children of the night! Tonight as we approach the last few nights of October, I will turn my attention to a man who burned a fear of ravens, being bricked up alive and beating hearts into many an overly curious child over the centuries.
Edgar Allan Poe is to me a fascinating figure. As well as being infamous for his well known madness and for being one of the most recognised figures in horror, he is almost equally as renowned for being one of the progenitors of what we now know as the modern detective novel with his Dupin who is referenced on multiple occasions throughout the Holmesian canon.
The audiobook under discussion today is somewhat unusual compared to normal as it is a digital compilation from the year 2000 of multiple different recordings some of which date back to vinyl releases from the 1950s. This audio collection of various pieces of Poe’s work contains both poems and short stories all of which seem to be from his horror work. Our narrators for this collection? Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone!
As a result of this release being a compilation I won’t review all 20 pieces included – although I will list them later in the article for the sake of convenience – however I will discuss the release and narration in detail for reasons which will become apparent.
This release originates from the year 2000 under the auspices of Caedmon who date as far back as 1952. Surprisingly – considering the age of the original recordings – they come through unusually loud and clear although there is definitely background noise and vinyl crackling throughout. In this case the sound is for the most part perfectly audible although there are moments of occasional fogginess. Basil Rathbone who narrates the majority of the stories does so in a very theatrical tone, throwing himself into the stories with abandon. His enthusiasm is rather enjoyable. Vincent Price shares this enthusiasm although mostly narrates in a somewhat more subdued fashion than Rathbone.
Despite now owning a supposedly complete audio edition of all of Poe’s work, this is one release I have an immense soft spot for. I have owned it for almost 10 years and listened to it on more than a few occasions over that time. Initially it was the name value of the narrators that drew my attention but over that time this release, as dated as it may appear to some, gives me the feel of a proper old fashioned spooky story by the fire. Be it a tale of the lady Berenice, the infamous raven or perhaps the unfortunate fall of the House of Usher I can easily imagine Price and Rathbone taking turns to tell the spooky stories or perhaps making it into a contest.
Unfortunately despite my love for it there is one major critique of this audio release I cannot look past. The stories and poems are not split into chapters thus making it difficult to locate a specific reading unless you know the exact order or can locate the order through the magic of certain websites via Google. As well as this negative there is also the fact that very few of the pieces include their titles in the reading. I believe the poem Berenice is one of only three or possibly four readings where the title is included before the reading begins. As such the formatting of this release is most definitely not optimal compared to what it could be. You have highly respected performers reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe and yet they can’t bring themselves to retroactively include chapter headings for each respective poem or story as has been done for certain other older recordings. As such I will include in this article a list of all included works in order for those of my readers who choose to give this flawed yet classic recording a listen.
- To Marie Louise (Shew)
- The City In The Sea
- The Fall Of The House Of Usher
- The Haunted Palace
- The Pit And The Pendulum
- The Masque Of The Red Death
- The Tell Tale Heart
- The Gold Bug
- The Black Cat
- The Raven
- The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar
- The Cask Of Amontillado
- The Bells
- Annabel Lee
- The Imp Of The Perverse
In conclusion despite some fairly major flaws and the overall age of the recordings The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection is an enjoyable experience that has an unusual charm all its own despite more modern collections being available. I hope some of you take a chance on this unusual release and either experience Poe for the first time or hear his work once again in the capable hands of master craftsman.
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