Okay, let's get what you're thinking out of the way.
I understand that my birthday was severely overstated. I was in Florida without my laptop and it took me a while to get back on the Internet. I only managed to finish my seven days of Clarke article (coming up in its entirety). I thus never got to finish my review of The Pit and the Pendulum (1961). So yeah, I'm a hypocrite.
But there will be reviews coming up.
SEVEN DAYS OF CLARKE
The Entire Article
NOTE: The following article was published at my birthday celebration page. To make more convenience, I've removed the title and its subheading. The basic idea is that I have my favorite Clarke illustrations for Poe. While the original article had it from oldest to newest, I'm taking the tedious task of doing it in reverse. So you better freaking enjoy this.
DAY ONE [The Blue Room]
The Tell-Tale Heart
Poe's truly creepy yet blackly comedic tale of madness, murder, and a certain eye is extremely well represented by Harry Clarke. I love the first, black-and-white illustration, as it bears a surreal and nightmarish landscape that draws you into the madman's mind (appropriately, because we are seeing through a lunatic's eyes). The truly disturbing look of joy that the madman wears (in both illustrations) really brings Poe's horror to vivid life. And in the second illustration the Old Man's corpse is very creepy, particularly with the madman covering the vulture eye. The blue floor, the muted yet colorful Indian/Persian bed, the twisted shape of the lamp, and the spider-like, abnormally thin shape of the madman complete this colorful set of illustrations.
DAY TWO [The Purple Room]
The Premature Burial
Probably the most famous of all Clarke's Poe illustrations, the inextricably chilling illustration for one of Poe's best stories is perfectly done. The ground above looks like a fairy land or a dream world. The grotesque roots of the tree stretches below and brings us to a coffin deep down. The horrified expression of the man, dressed in a shroud and cramped in the coffin, is really something to be scared of. The skulls and bones of the peaceful dead that lie in caverns below makes it even more creepy. This really is a disturbing illustration and makes it one of the best representations of Poe yet.
DAY THREE [The Green Room]
A Descent Into the Maelstrom
This illustration showcases Clarke's inkwork at it's best - swirls and slashes of blackness, deeping into the seething maelstrom. On the right, we see a tiny narrator lost on a barrel, while a canoe swirls down the inside of the swirling fury of dark water and white froth. I must complement Clarke here, it is one of his best inkings by far.
DAY FOUR [The Orange Room]
I actually have the black-and-white one on my wall and have seen it in person. Drawing. Whatever! I love the story Ligeia and Clarke's illustrations really hit home. I mean, seriously? If you deny that he was a good artist to at least the smallest degree, then show that person these pictures. I find Ligeia herself much more beautiful in the color illustration (with the angel of Rowena floating off in the top right corner), but the overall enjoyment lies in the first. The intricateness of the halo, the worshipping expression of the hallucinating man, the stone figure of Ligeia, and the incredibly detailed clothes/floor make this drawing complete. The color one, while less favorable, is impressive (particularly in the figure of a resurrected Ligeia, where her beautiful face really shines out).
DAY FIVE [The White Room]
The Fall of the House of Usher
While the story deserves a second place spot, these illustrations are in third. But they are still wonderful. The disquieting black-and-white illustration is very powerful. I find that Madeline's grotesquely deformed body is very effective. By the way - was Madeline resurrected or was she still alive? Because how would somebody in her...ahem...situation survive for eight days in that entombment? But I'm getting ahead of myself. The shrouded Madeline entering the room is very good. The effect of keeping the room all black and the door solid white (so one can only, really, focus on the horrific figure) is very well done. The surrealistic second picture is equally chilling but much more graphic. I dislike the face of Madeline (and her armpit hair) and the nudity isn't quite appealing to me. However, the demonic, nearly Lovecraftian creature in between Madeline's shattered coffin and our narrator is very creepy. The psychedelia of madness is less effective -Usher seems like a black-and-white kind of story to me. And did you notice how all of the characters in Clarke's paintings are dressed in some kind of Persian/Indian, exotic robe? Odd - I would have liked to see him do Dunsany. All in all, a pretty creepy set of illustrations here - suited for such a disturbing tale.
DAY SIX [The Violet Room]
The Black Cat
The crowning glory of this illustration - by far - is the wonderfully disturbing rendition of the murdered wife, with the black cat (is it Pluto? Read the story and find out!) sitting atop her partially crushed head. The rotting body in the dank and dripping cellar is really powerfully done and will give you shivers. Speaking of that cellar, I don't think that you could illustrate a creepier one - that room is CREEPY! As always, the characters are dressed in exotic robes (Dunsanian, people!). The police grab our screaming narrator who looks more angry than scared. This thing is enough to you shivers. And that story...that horrific story! It ranks with The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Pit and the Pendulum. Really - this one is really creepy. In fact, instead of putting Pendulum in third place, I'm putting The Black Cat there instead. Definitely a scary illustration with an even scarier story. That corpse...SO FREAKING CREEPY!
DAY SEVEN [The Black Room]
The Masque of the Red Death
Is there one of us here that thought I wouldn't put this here? [cricket chirping] Yeah. I thought so. But truth to be told, it really is a perfect match of art and story. The Gothic masterpiece of horror that builds fear and fantasy until the chilling climax is already amazing enough. But the illustration of the clock is deep and detailed. The hangings of the Violet Room are perfectly framed behind the corpse-like Red Death (we'll get to him soon). The terrified revelers stare in fear and horror at the gruesome scene (I particularly note the woman pushing the others back). But the greatness of this illustration lies in the Red Death himself. Standing in a burial shroud, wearing fantastical shoes and dripping blood onto the dagger that lies gleaming on the sable carpet, the specter lies framed in the illustration. His decayed face stares at a truly disturbing addition...a head or mask lying in his hands that I always took to be Prospero's rotting features (as we can all see that there is no corpse on the carpet). This chilling, haunting illustration is one of the reasons to buy the Clarke edition...though any of the illustrations are reason enough. We thus end our series. I'll post this entire article on the main page after I delete this.