Maelstrom-Clarke

So many of Poe’s tales have been made into movies, and most of those movies have been dreadfully bad. There’s one Poe tale, however, that as far as I can tell, has never been adapted to film, but should be. “A Descent into the Maelström.” (There are a couple of films with this name, but they’ve nothing to do with the story.) With today’s CGI, this could be an exciting adventure, combing equal measures of science fiction, horror, sea-adventure and loads of period costumes: 

“Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.”

-from “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841) 

This wonderful little yarn from Poe is a mystery and a bit of science fiction. Weird physics, the bending of time, as well as a shipwreck yarn all wrapped into one. It’s an easy read, and full of the kind of purple prose only Poe could write. 

Finally, this story is another example of Poe’s ‘ratiocination’, his science of reason developed in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.” The science of reason and calm analysis, the kind of deductive thinking that invented the modern detective.

The image of the vortex (the ‘Maelström’) is from Harry Clarke’s illustration for the story from a 1919 edition. Notice the lack of CGI.

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