Fannie Flagg wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop, in 1987. I read it. I said, “Wow!” Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Tell-Tale Heart in 1843. I read that, too, and I said, ” Wow!” I enjoyed reading both of them. Flagg’s book was made into a movie, and I gave that a “double-wow!” I saw Poe’s short story as a movie, and I said, “Kill me, now.”
Actually, I read every short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, long ago, when I was a teen. I had a book of his complete works. As an adult I started seeing Vincent Price in different Poe short-stories made into movies. So, to be fair, I guess I had expectations from reading before seeing. On the other hand, I saw the movie FRIED GREEN TOMATOES before I read the book. Maybe that makes a difference, but it’s probably because short stories aren’t good for movies.
In the Tomatoes movie (and book) the story goes back and forth between the 1980’s and flash-backs of a 1920’s Alabama murder, as told by a hilarious elderly woman in a nursing home parlor. Evelyn Couch (a great last name for the dumpy, aging Kathy Bates character) frequently into the parlor of the nursing home, and listens to the flash-back tales about the amusing, well-developed people of Whistle Stop, Alabama. The elderly lady that tells the tales is played by Jessica Tandy in the film. Bates and Tandy were enough to make the flick a box office smash, by themselves. What talent they have!
I have always loved flashbacks. Tandy tells of a tomboy named Idgie Threadgood (Mary Stewart Masterson), and we follow Idgie’s life from childhood. Idgie has a very deep friendship with a character named Ruth. The relationship, in the flick, has hints of a lesbian relationship. Some people who saw the flick did not even realize this, I’ve heard (Duh!), but, in the book it is graphically so. Ruth, played by Mary Louise Parker (before she tickled us in the funny TV show, WEEDS), was as cute as a button. Ruth’s KKK hubby batters her, and he winds up murdered. Idgie is the prime suspect, of course. The film is from a book, so I can’t even begin to tell the story, briefly, here.
This great book and film has comedy; drama; murder; action; love; psychology and flashbacks all rolled into one. The movie was very true to the book, except the book could have very easily turned into a chick-flick. It didn’t. Nope. It was fantastic, stealing many Oscars. I loved the book, but the movie was even better. Ha-ha-ha! Bravo!
Now, let’s talk about the movie made from The Tell-Tale Heart. Or, let’s not. Okay, I guess I have come this far, so I will.
Why would someone decide to make a movie from a story that is two pages long? Errr…they did. Many times. Many of Poe’s short stories were made into movies. I know he was the first murder mystery writer ever, is much more well-known than Fannie Flagg, and his stories are awesome, but…huh? Maybe somebody was sitting around just thinking of ways to give Vincent Price a job.
In this particular one, the screenplay has many characters in it that weren’t in the short story, and they have new, extensive plotlines to act out! In print, however, the narrator is “mad” (Poe meant insane). He kills a man because he, quite simply, does not like the looks of his pale blue eye with a film over it. It drives the narrator to murdering the eye-man, and stuffing his body under the floor boards. The narrator keeps hearing the heartbeat of the victim long after his demise, which makes the madman “madder”, until the constable arrives. The narrator tells on himself, rips up the floor, and is taken away to…the gallows, probably. The end. You see, that’s a two-page story, not movie material.
I’ve tried to watch all of the movies made from short Poe stories. I end up wanting to rip out my own eye, stop my own heart from beating, and fall under the floorboards.
Vincent Price, of course, was a great actor. I’m glad somebody was able to put bread on his table during the 50’s and 60’s, so we could see him on The Carol Burnett Show, repeatedly, in the 70’s.
Rent “Tomatoes”, but change channels when you see a movie “…based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe”. It means that about .009% of it is. Read his collections. They are great.