On October 3, 1849 the great American author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, was found on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland in a state of delirium. He was discovered by a man named Joseph W. Walker, who in a letter to a Doctor J. E. Snodgrass, reported Poe's condition in the following way:
"There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan's 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen
of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, and he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need
Poe was taken to Baltimore's Washington Medical College, where at 5:00 A.M. on Sunday, October 9, he took his last breath.
That the famous writer drank excessively and used opium is a well known fact. Still, the actual cause of his death remains uncertain and speculation concerning the cause of his demise abounds. Some attribute his early passing to alcohol poisoning or disease. Another theory is that he fell victim to a practice called cooping, in which innocent people were kidnapped by corrupt political gangs. The victims were then beaten, given excessive amounts of alcohol and then forced to go from polling place to polling place in order to vote for persons supported by the gangs.
What is known is that Mr. Poe was not wearing his own clothes at the time of his discovery; which incidentally, occurred outside the 4th ward polls on election day, a forum that served both as a bar and a place to vote. This lends credence to the cooping theory as it was a common practice to keep changing the victim's garments before forcing them to vote again. Additionally, the famous author was not able to describe what had happened to him due to his advanced state of delirium. Still, it's said that he kept repeating the name, "Reynolds," a reference to a manthe no one was able to identify.
Mr. Poe's life was not well documented and sadly, no official biography was ever written. It is said that he arrived back in Baltimore by mistake. Beyond that, the last days of his life are forever shrouded in mystery.
I rarely go to the cinema these days, but after seeing the trailer for The Raven during the winter of 2011/2012, I intended to go attend one in order to see the film. Well, as it turns out, the movie didn't play here for very long and before I knew it, I had lost the opportunity to watch it when it was first released last spring. You can just imagine my elation then, when I found it in the DVD section a couple of weeks ago at the public library.
There are a lot of good things I can say about the film, but what I love most about it is its own fictionalized but thoroughly believable account of Edgar Allan Poe's last days back in Baltimore. The screen play writers, Ben Livingston Hannah Shakespeare and director James McTeigue did a fantastic job of integrating what little is known about the writer's last days into the plot of this marvelous film.
The story begins with a series of gruesome murders carried out by a psychopathic serial killer. Police Inspector Emmett Fields (played by Luke Evans, quickly figures out that the first bizarre murders followed a method detailed in Poe's story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Edgar Allan (portrayed by John Cusack) is at first suspected and brought into the station for questioning. Soon it becomes apparent however, that he is not the killer and instead, some madman is both mimicking the gruesome murders from Poe's fiction and challenging the writer and Inspector Fields to figure out who he is and where he will strike next.
The film's pacing really picks up when Poe's childhood sweetheart with whom he had renewed a love relationship, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), is abducted from a ball thrown in her honor by her father. All I can say is, I was kept on the edge of my seat while Emily struggles for her life and Poe and the inspector struggle against time to save her.
Now that I've seen the film to its conclusion, all I can say is, wow! It details the mysterious last days of Edgar Allan Poe in a manner that is totally believable. As a matter of fact, I find myself wanting to believe that this is how Poe's life really ended as it somehow, seems befitting a person with his imagination and creative stature. And who knows? Perhaps it really did happen like that!