The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe DVD Review: For Curiosity Seekers Only

While he was one of the authors who appealed to me during those days of darkness that dominated both my fashion sense and overly-artistic mind in the not-too-distant past, I must confess the notion of a motion picture based on the romantic side of Edgar Allan Poe seems like a real head-scratcher in my opinion. Ironically, outside of something in the vein of a BBC miniseries, Poe’s tragic existence would perhaps be best-fitted for fiction – whether it be Hollywood’s overly sensationalized 2012 film The Raven with John Cusack, or as an illusory cameo who sets up the entire plot of a ’60s Italian horror flick like Castle of Blood (or its ’70s remake, Web of the Spider, wherein Poe was brought to life by – of all people – Klaus Kinski).

But a movie about his personal life made during the time when Hollywood was way too prudish for its own good? Well, it goes without saying that you could call such a thing something else entirely. In fact, it’s best known as The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe – a 1942 biography that is about as authentic as most any other 1940s Hollywood biopic. Though it nails down several key moments from his life in a somewhat authentic manner, the rest of the movie is a pretty boring affair. Starring as the great poet/writer/critic/editor is second-tier performer Shepperd Strudwick, who – at this point in his mostly-forgotten career – was appearing under the name John Sheppard. In fact, despite being the main character, Shepperd/Sheppard still doesn’t get top-billing here: that honor goes to actress Linda Darnell, who plays Poe’s cousin/bride, Virginia Clemm.

Sure, the real Virginia Clemm was only thirteen-years-old when Poe married her, but who wants to see both incest and pedophilia in a ’40s romance film?

Again, since reflecting on most of Poe’s life would be something too epic to adequately bring to the screen in a 67-minute film, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe instead focuses on two of his relationships (the aforementioned Virginia Clemm and Sarah Elmira Royster, who is portrayed here by actress Virginia Gilmore), with an uncredited narrator filling in the gaps quickly as some silent footage rolls past. Truly, these moments are more interesting than the rest of the whole bloody affair, with brief exceptions like Poe conversing with Thomas Jefferson (Gilbert Emery) and Charles Dickens (Morton Lowry) achieving a status of being slightly noteworthy. But not really. Harry Morgan (yes, Sherman T. Potter himself!) has his second role in a movie (as Henry Morgan) as Poe’s college roommate, with Jane Darwell, Mary Howard, Frank Conroy, and Morris Ankrum also appearing.

Fox Cinema Archives brings us this antiquated relic of glossy historical inaccuracy to home video for the first time via its Manufactured-on-Demand lineup of DVD-Rs. Both the video and audio aspects are quite nice (it’s not like the film has been widely seen since ’42), and there are no special features included for this dud.

For curiosity seekers only.

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Luigi Bastardo

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