Edgar Allan Poe had a great year in 2022 even though he has been dead for over 170 years. Anyone tuning into Wednesday on Netflix could see the influence of Poe’s work in the show. Then, there was Raven’s Hollow which cast William Moseley as Poe as a young cadet at West Point investigating a series of gruesome murders. So, Hollywood is an incestuous industry and every now and again a pair or set of movies are made that are so similar but so different to avoid any lawsuits.
In 1992, we had two Christopher Columbus biopics. Neither one was good. In 1998, Deep Impact had a comet headed toward the Earth. And then there was Armageddon in which an asteroid was headed to Earth. In 2005 and 2006, we had Capote and Infamous, both about Truman Capote (featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones respectively) researching the murder case in Kansas that would go on to be the subject of his book In Cold Blood. Even Missing in Action was accused of plagiarism of Rambo: First Blood Part II, despite being released a year earlier, because both movies were based on a script that James Cameron had reportedly written.
Speaking of Sly Stallone, who has been trying to make a Poe biopic for years, his arm-wrestling truck-driving movie Over the Top seems oddly similar to an obscure movie, P.K. and the Kid, about a hitchhiking teen played by Molly Ringwald who gets a ride from a truck driver played by Paul Le Mat who’s on his way to compete in a world-champion arm-wrestling contest. The movie was filmed in 1982 and shelved until Ringwald became more famous with her teen movies.
Poe returns as a central character in Netflix’s The Pale Blue Eye, in which Harry Melling plays Poe as a cadet at West Point investigating a odd murder. But, it’s not just Poe this time. He plays the Watson to the Holmes’s character of Augustus Landor (Christian Bale), a retired alcoholic detective who has to investigate the hanging of a military cadet. Later, the heart of the young man is stolen from the morgue. Later some livestock animals are discovered butchered with their hearts removed and Landor, with Poe’s help, deduce it’s part of a black magic ritual.
Another cadet is found hanged with both his heart and genitalia removed and a third cadet goes missing and presumably killed. Landor, himself, is suffering from some family drama. His daughter, Mattie (Hadley Robinson), who was still a teenager has reportedly ran off which has led to his drinking. He has taken up a relationship with tavern owner, Patsy (Charlotte Gainsbroug), following grieving the death of his wife years earlier.
Landor and Poe’s investigation leads them to suspect the Marquis family, which make the Addams Family look like the Waltons (of TV not Wal-Mart). The patriach is Dr. Daniel Maquis (Jones) and his wife, Julia (Gillian Anderson) whose son, Artemis (Harry Lawtey) is a cadet at the academy as well. Their daughter, Lea (Lucy Boynton) is suffering from seizures. But that’s all I can tell because this movie takes a wildly outrageous left turn in his second half that you won’t see coming.
The movie has a bigger budget and more impressive cast that Raven’s Hollow, which still has the same Gothic horror tone. Robert Duvall and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.) and his wife, Gisele, play extras in a scene. Much of the filming took place in Pennsylvania and Fetterman who was the lieutenant governor during production is not hard to miss and seems suited for a Poe horror tale.
I will admit the first half of the movie seems to drag along and some viewers might be turned off. Melling does a better job as Moseley at portraying Poe. I got nothing against Moseley but he looks nothing like Poe. Melling, an English actor, has more facial features that resemble Poe. If Stallone ever makes that movie, I would suggest he cast Melling in the role. Also, Scott Cooper, who directed the movie and wrote the screenplay based on the novel of the same name by Louis Bayard, seems to understand the material more. I’ve deduced the production behind Raven’s Hollow went into production faster when word spread of production of Eye.
The movie still has a lot of problems but the casting makes it worth watching. This is the third time Cooper and Bale have worked together in the past 10 years. Like their previous movie, Hostiles, the movie has a dark bleak realistic outlook on life in the 19th Century. Some people may not like this and I’m just recommending it by a slim margin over the more sluggish Raven’s Hollow. But I do know some people will not be interested in it. Poe fans and fans of Gothic horror may like it.
What do you think? Please comment.