After his death, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) became a global icon of modern literature and a pop culture brand.
Best known for his Gothic horror tales and narrative poem “The Raven,” Poe’s stories are the basis of countless films and TV episodes, and have inspired even more, as has his name and image. Creating the detective fiction genre with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), Poe wrote over 100 short stories and poems altogether.
Now, the new documentary “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive,” airing as part of the American Masters series, tells the real story of the notorious author. The film, drawing on the rich palette of Poe’s evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots, premiered Monday, October 30, 2017 on CPTV. It is now available to stream for a limited time via pbs.org/americanmasters and PBS OTT apps.
Starring Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor Denis O’Hare (This Is Us, American Horror Story, Take Me Out) and narrated by Oscar- and Tony-nominated, two-time Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner, “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” explores the misrepresentations of Poe as a drug-addled madman akin to the narrators of his horror stories.
This caricature is thanks, in large part, to a high-profile obituary filled with falsehoods, written by his literary rival Rufus W. Griswold. Determined to reinvent American literature, Poe was an influential – and brutally honest – literary critic and magazine editor, who also invented the detective protagonist with his character C. Auguste Dupin, refined the science fiction genre and popularized short stories, actually writing more comedies than horror.
An orphan in search of family, love and literary fame, Poe struggled with alcoholism and was also a product of early 19th century American urban life: depressed from the era’s culture of death due to the high mortality rate and the struggles of living in poverty. Poe famously died under mysterious circumstances and his cause of death remains unknown.
Filmed in Boston Harbor’s historic Fort Independence at Castle Island, “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” combines dramatized reenactments of key moments in Poe’s life; readings from Poe’s works by O’Hare, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon (The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Princess Bride, Dog Day Afternoon), and actor Ben Schnetzer (Snowden, Goat, Pride); and interviews with authors, director Roger Corman (behind the Poe film cycle including House of Usher), and others to reveal how Poe tapped into what it means to be human in a modern and sometimes frightening world.