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Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?

“The Raven,” stars John Cusack as one of America’s greatest literary figures. The thriller, set in 19th century Baltimore, involves a string of brutal and horrifying murders, crimes that seem inspired by the shocking stories of a local writer—Edgar Allan Poe.


In “The Raven,” John Cusack plays Poe in a tale of murders most monstrous.

This isn’t the first time Poe has appeared in a motion picture. In fact, the famous writer/poet/critic is featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental horror film, “Twixt.” In that story, the main character (played by Val Kilmer) has an eerie dream in which he visits with a very-much-alive Poe…despite his death in 1849.

Haunted from Birth
So who was this strange little man with the haunted eyes and drooping moustache? In many regards he was America’s first professional writer; before Edgar Allen Poe, the thought of a writer actually making enough money to support himself was laughable. Poe was one of the first writers to make his living completely from his pen.

But it wasn’t an easy life. An orphan at age 2, Poe was dead by 40 (and under mysterious circumstances: found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, incoherent as if drunk and wearing clothes that he did not own). To this day, there is no final verdict on what killed him.


One of the few photographs of the real Edgar Allan Poe, taken about a year before his mysterious death.

During his short life, Edgar Allan Poe experienced much tragedy. He grew up in a foster family where he received harsh discipline. As a young man, he dropped out of the University of Virginia, in part due to mounting gambling debts. Later he was court-martialed out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for neglecting his duties.

Years later, after he was steadily making a name for himself as a writer, he published the classic horror poem, “The Raven,” but although the poem made Poe world-famous, there was no such thing as copyright law at the time and Poe only earned $7 for his masterpiece. Shortly thereafter, his young wife died—emotionally scarring the brilliant writer. Within seven years, Poe himself was dead.


In Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt,” Val Kilmer consults with Poe (played by Ben Chaplin).

Tortured Soul…But Productive Life
And yet, in spite of a brutally hard life, Poe achieved some amazing things:

  • He’s considered the father of American horror, as writers like Stephen King have often acknowledged. Many of his scariest works have been adapted for film over the years.
  • Poe is one of the first American writers credited with popularizing the short story as a literary format.
  • The father of the modern detective story, Poe’s famous “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the very first ever in which a detective solves a mystery by piecing together clues and using deductive reasoning. (Modern TV shows like “CSI” owe Poe an enormous debt of inspiration.)
  • Poe helped establish the genre of science fiction.
  • A great poet, Poe published classic verse like “The Bells” and “A Dream within a Dream.”
  • Poe was also a hugely influential literary critic, who commented on the work of other writers and poets.

Finally, Poe was a larger-than-life character whose own personal misfortunes seemed to mirror the awful and mysterious aspects of his writing. There are only a few photographs of Poe and he’s never smiling in any of them. Furthermore, there are few if any “happy endings” within his stories and poems. Poe seemed to be as haunted as his imagination, and the public image of a troubled, unhappy artist has stuck with him for well more than a century.

Poe in Pop Culture
Edgar Allan Poe cast a very long shadow and he’s rarely been out of public circulation. This “master of the macabre” keeps turning up in the strangest places:

1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles…Poe is one of the many celebrities and public figures featured on this 1967 landmark album’s equally famous cover. The collage mixes the images of more than 70 figures, with Poe anchoring the back row (between pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, Hollywood’s greatest dancer).


Even The Beatles saluted Poe; he appears in the middle of the back row of celebrities on “Sgt. Pepper.”

2. “Play Misty for Me”…In the first film Clint Eastwood directed (1971), Clint plays a DJ who has a brief fling with a fan, not realizing that she’s a complete maniac. But he finally gets the point…or nearly does. Played by Jessica Walter (now the mother on TV’s “Modern Family”), the unhinged fan quotes from Poe’s tragic love poem “Annabel Lee,” and it’s never gotten a spookier reading.

3. The Baltimore Ravens…The pro football team (which captured the 2000 Super Bowl championship) needed a new name when the Cleveland Browns franchise was bought and moved to Baltimore. A fan contest was conducted to select the new name. Although other titles were considered (e.g., “The Baltimore Marauders,” “The Baltimore Americans”), the team was eventually named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe and his most famous poem because Poe had lived and eventually died in the northeastern city. Now the team’s three raven mascots share his name; one’s called “Edgar,” another is “Allan” and a third is called “Poe.”


When a new NFL franchise came to Baltimore, a fan contest chose “Ravens” in honor of Poe’s famous poem.

Putting Poe to Work
Edgar Allen Poe would have loved the medium of digital filmmaking—now it’s possible to bring a writer’s vision to life and take audiences even deeper into their world. All it takes is an active imagination and some Hollywood visual effects to help create nightmares that leave a lasting impression on people. Poe would be proud.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

More Marvel-ous Movies: Avengers, Captain America 2, Thor 2

“The Avengers” has wowed audiences and broken box offices records. And in the not-too-distant future, “The Avengers” will be joined by even more movies from the Marvel Universe.


“The Avengers” assemble at Comic-Con in San Diego. From left: Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo.

How about an”Incredible Hulk” franchise helmed by Mark Ruffalo? For now, all eyes are turned toward “The Avengers,” which is expected to be the blockbuster of Summer 2012.

Assembling a Cast of Heroes
“The Avengers” trailer features Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Mark Ruffalo (The Incredible Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton), Stellan Skarsgard (Dr. Erik Selvig), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury).

The story, written by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon tells how the Avengers came together to fight Loki and an alien army he brings to Earth to destroy mankind. Whedon wrote the screenplay and directs the film.


On the set of  “The Avengers,” director Josh Whedon looks on while the actors relax between takes. 

The film, which was first announced in 2005 has taken a long road to completion. Originally delayed by the release of “Iron Man” in 2008, “The Avengers” was pushed back to July 2011. Then actress Scarlett Johansson signed on and the film was delayed again to accommodate her schedule.

Fine-tuning the script (which director Whedon rewrote after joining the project in 2010) additionally delayed production. And finally, there was the much-publicized substitution of Mark Ruffalo to portray the Incredible Hulk – after actor Edward Norton left the cast. (Longtime Hulk fans may be pleased to learn that the Hulk’s voice will come from none other than Lou Ferrigno, who played the not-so-jolly green giant on TV back in the 1970s.)

So much for the art of digital filmmaking, still both the studio, cast and director understand the urgency to get it right, because multiple sequels are riding the film’s success, like…

Thor 2
In November 2013, moviegoers can look forward to the arrival of “Thor 2,” which will again star Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-swinging Norse god from Asgard. His last screen outing, 2011’s “Thor,” earned nearly a half-billion dollars ($449 million internationally). Suffice it to say, Marvel already has high hopes for the follow-up film.


Immediately on the heels of “The Avengers,” release, Hemsworth will start shooting “Thor 2.” 

Filming on “Thor 2″ is set to begin late this summer in London and while several big-name directors have been attached to the project, it appears Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones”) will get the assignment. The screenplay is being written by Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”). Along with Hemsworth, Natalie Portman is scheduled to return for the sequel, along with Tom Hiddleston, who will again portray Thor’s evil brother, Loki.

Captain America 2
Last summer’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” also scored big at the box office, raking in more than $368 million worldwide. The film was a solid hit with critics, too. Critic Roger Ebert wrote, “I admired the way that director Joe Johnston propelled the narrative. I got a sense of a broad story, rather than the impression of a series of sensational set pieces. If Marvel is wise, it will take this and ‘Iron Man’ as its templates.”


The good Captain will return to movie screens in April 2014.

Marvel has been listening. The publisher/studio (now owned by The Walt Disney Company) has been planning a Captain America sequel since before the first film was released, they’ve even camped out a release date: April 4, 2014.

Captain America 2 is rumored to take place mainly in the present day, with the Cap’n adjusting to his new surroundings, although the screenwriters have said they’re experimenting with flashbacks to the World War II period.

Get Your Hero On!
Whether it comes to saving the universe or dominating movie screens, superheroes rule. And today’s superhero movies finally deliver the explosive, larger-than-life hollywood visual effects that comic books can only depict through illustrations. Creating comic book characters isn’t the easy and bringing them to life on screen is even more difficult. We’ll be headed to a theater to see if earth’s mightiest heroes “The Avengers,” really do save the day.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments