One of Edgar Allan Poe’s lesser-known stories, and also one of his shortest at just two pages, The Oval Portrait was first published in 1842. Such a short story should be impossible to adapt but writer Rogelio A. González and director Enrique Torres Tudela gave it a good go with the 1972 movie, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait aka One Minute Before Death.
Poe’s story sees an injured man (the narrator) take shelter in an abandoned mansion where he comes across a particularly striking oval painting, one of a young girl. He is enthralled by it and wants to know more about the person in the painting.
There’s not a lot to this story but it is classic Poe, all about atmosphere and the subversion of meaning. A recreation that is valiantly attempted with his movie. Playing out, visually and sonically, like a Hammer production, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait is a decent gothic horror movie.
The story surrounds Mrs Buckingham (Doris Buckinham) and her daughter, Lisa Buckingham (Wanda Hendrix). They have gone to Mrs Buckingham’s brother’s house for the reading of his will, as he has died. While staying at the house, Lisa becomes intrigued by an oval painting of a young girl named Rebecca (Maray Ayres). A young girl who suffered a cruel fate and is now attempting to possess the body of Lisa.
Cutting between ‘modern’ times and the story of what happened to Rebecca, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait is a bit disjointed. Not only that, the story it tells is dragged out to the point that it starts to bore. That being said; the backstory of Rebecca are often the high points of the movie. Helped by some of the film’s strongest acting.
If you’re hoping for a fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride, you’re sure to be disappointed. Though, that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments. In particular the ending which ramps up the silliness and pushes things to the cheesy limit. Still enjoyable to watch, just a bit of an odd tone-shift.
Ultimately, what really works in the film’s favour is the period era it was made and is set in. If you’re a fan of these old-school gothic-infused horror stories, this will deliver.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Oval Portrait (1972)
The Final Score - 6/10