The Corman/Poe cycle— a series of 8 films made from 1960-65, directed by Roger Corman and distributed by American International Pictures, which take their plots from stories by Edgar Allan Poe. All but one star Vincent Price. Initially AIP asked for two black and white low budget films; Corman convinced them to let him shoot one film in colour adapting Poe’s story ‘Fall of the House of Usher’. The idea for a series only came about after House of Usher was a box office smash.
Though most of the movies veer widely away from the original Poe stories (and, in fact, The Haunted Palace is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story), the consistent themes of fear, tragedy and death in Poe’s works are transferred beautifully onto the screen. Though these themes are ignored in the middle segment of Tales of Terror and mocked in The Raven, the Gothic look and story elements are always present.
Shot on a reasonably low budget in a short time, they are all remarkable artistic achievements. Though the most famous scenes are no doubt from Pit and the Pendulum or perhaps Masque of the Red Death, each film is shot with imagination and skill. Although they were released at the same time as the more famous Hammer horror films, the Poe pictures seem to be a bridge between the aforementioned new bold and gory horror and the dreamlike fantasy worlds of the old Universal horror classics.
Of the 8 films, only House of Usher has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, but the images from each film will undoubtedly be preserved in the mind of the viewer for life. Together the films have made a significant impact on horror film and films in general, the memorable visuals having been referenced countless times in other films and media.