The movie "The Black Cat" what is the difference between the movie and the book? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I need help with a paper on the movie "The Black Cat" and how it is thesame and diffrent from the book. can you help me?

-- Anonymous, October 23, 2000


Dear Evelyn,

You enquire about the similarities and the differences between Edgar Allan Poe's tale "The Black Cat" and Roger Corman's cinematic adaptation, collected under the title "Tales of Terror", a trilogy which also features "Morella" and "The Case of M. Valdemar". I shall attempt to answer this for you:

Corman's version of "The Black Cat" may be regarded, in fact, as an amalgam of at least two of Poe's tales, these being a) "The Black Cat" and b) "The Cask of Amontillado" (which are the core tales used for the film) [PLEASE NOTE FROM NOW ON THAT WHEN I SAY "TALE" I AM MAKING REFERENCE TO POE AND WHEN "FILM" TO CORMAN, UNLESS THE CONTEXT SUGGESTS OTHERWISE].

"Where lies the evidence?", I hear you ask:

Well, if one will recall Poe's tale of "The Cask of Amontillado", the characters which feature are called Fortunato and Montresor, which are precisely the names given to the characters of the film (Fortunato played by the sublime Vincent Price, and Montresor enacted by the wonderful Peter Lorre).

We find here the first example of artistic license perpetrated by Corman, since in Poe's "The Black Cat" one never learns the name of the narrator, nor is there the character of Fortunato (or one which could be he). However, the character of Montresor in the film could be understood as substituting (or "filling the role" shall we say, which is, perhaps, a more accurate description) the narrator of "The Black Cat" inasmuch as he does treat the cat with contempt in the film (like the anonymous narrator of the tale does).

As there is neither "cat" nor "wife" in the tale of "The Cask of Amontillado", so there is no "Fortunato" character in "The Black Cat" tale. Therefore anything to do with references to infidelities between "Fortunato" and "Annabel" in the film bear no resemblence whatsoever to the tale (note that Corman chooses Annabel as a name for Montresor's wife, which holds significance with Poe in relation to the poem "Annabel Lee" which has been considered as having Poe's wife Virginia as subject matter).

In fact, if one recalls Poe's "The Black Cat", it is actually the cat itself which is, indirectly, responsible for the demise of the narrator's wife, who is murdered quite gruesomely by the narrator (he buries an axe into her head).

The film holds similarity with the tale in that both conceal the bodies behind walls in the cellar (but here must be drawn an important distinction between film and tale, and also bringing "The Cask of Amontillado" back into it; In the tale, the narrator enwalls the CORPSE of his wife [she is already dead], whereas in the film both "Fortunato" and "Annabel" are entombed behind the wall, ALIVE [furthermore this recalls "The Cask of Amontillado" when Montresor does likewise to Fortunato]).

On a final note I would like to draw especial attention to the tone which is employed by both Poe and Corman, these two differing sharply:

Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" is a tale primarily about revenge; the tone is deeply ironic as anybody who has read the tale must know, due to how events develop throughout (Poe is masterful in his careful creation of this); Poe's "The Black Cat" is more about perversity and guilt, about trying to keep a secret and then being found out because the secret cannot be kept (the tone is of grimness and gravity); Corman is different: he indulges heavily in black humour, resulting in a more whimsical representation of what is actually a very grave matter (He goes on to perfect this style in his posterior adaptation of "The Raven").

I hope that this goes some way towards answering your queries, and I would like to make clear that this is by no means an exhaustive account, there are another points which could be and should be mentioned (the role of the police for instance, etc.)

If you would like to discuss this further or who like me to clarify anything, please feel free to contact me on any issue you wish:

Yours sincerely,

Pragmatic Poe

-- Anonymous, October 24, 2000

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