It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an anthology film, so I decided to correct that with Extraordinary Tales. Extraordinary Tales is an animated anthology film telling five separate stories by Edgar Allen Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, and finally The Masque of the Red Death. All done with beautiful animation and some great narration, well for the four that have narration.
The five stories are bound together, though a story not of Poe’s creation. Death (Cornelia Funke) questions, probes and mild chastises a Raven (Stephen Hughes). The Raven being Poe’s spirit still fighting to linger in the world of leaving. So Death and the Raven tell Poe’s stories back and forth, while discussing Poe’s fascination with Death. Something she finds flattering…. I think.
The first story The Fall of the House of Usher is Narrated by the great horror Icon Christopher Lee, who knocks out a wonderful performance. I liked the blocky, cell-shaded art style as I feel that it pairs wonderfully with Lee haunting narration.
The second story The Tell-Tale Heart’s narrated by another horror icon, Bela Lugosi. With his narration pulled from a radio broadcast archive. I really like that they didn’t clean up the audio much, if at all for this story. Leaving the clicks and static from the original recording in tact as it added a good deal more gloom to the story. This story takes on a black and white approach that I can only compare to Sin City.
The next tale The Facts in the Case of M. Valdmare narrated by Julian Sands. Perhaps my favorite of the three if for no other reason than the subject mater. Though it did bother me some that one of the characters’s modeled after Vincent Price, so I kept expecting to hear his voice instead of Julian Sands.
Following that is The Pit and the Pendulum narrated by Guillermo del Toro and is perhaps my least liked of the stories. This is mainly due to del Toro being hard to understand at times and that his narration comes off incredibly monotone. Which unfortunately clashes a bit with the art style, which is sadly also the weakest of the entries.
The final story The Masque of the Red Death isn’t narrated at all. Which makes sense given that most of it describes the gloom, where here in the visual medium it shows you. This tale contains the best art style and does a decent job telling the story with little dialog. In fact, I think there is a single spoken line.
As a casual fan of Edgar Allen Poe I really liked this film. I’m sure serious or hardcore fans of his work would find something to complain about. Because I found a few things to complain about. With the most grievous of which being that Poe’s spirit is Crow rather than that of a Raven. Which I feel would have been far more fitting.
Another being if this takes place after Poe’s death, I would have liked to hear reference to his last words “Lord, help my poor soul”. But I can understand why this would have been left out as many of the other strangeness surrounding Poe’s death.
Final thoughts, I liked it. A lot. Love it? Maybe, the jury is still out on that one. As with all anthology films, some entries are stronger than others. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdmare and The Fall of the House of Usher being my personal favorites, while The Pit and the Pendulum and the overarching story being the weakest. Extraordinary Tales does an overall good job at keeping Poe’s essence while shifting mediums. Extraordinary Tales is entertainingly fun to watch and worth the effort if your a casual fan or have never been exposed to Poe’s work before. 8.5/10