Here is one that many of you might not know!
Edgar Allan Poe may be one of the most prominent figures in all horror writing. His work remains a staple in American poetry and short story. Many of us grow up to be familiar with the weird and macabre tales like The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Mask of The Red Death. Along with his poems like The Raven and The Bells, the mans work seems to span the gap of generations. These writings are all common place to read in any English class in America and it always becomes a tradition for me to read his works every October. Poe was a man of deep vision and alluring words. His stories of murder and sanity are chiseled into the brains of all of his fans.
I can remember being a child and watching the Universal horror films Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat and The Raven. All featuring the titans of the silver screen Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. While The Black Cat and The Raven are very loosely based on Poe’s writings, it stands as a testament to his influence. Then there are the 1960’s Poe series that starred the ever popular Vincent Price. These are the rich colored films and create a trend in a time when monster movies weren’t the most popular. But one of my all time favorite Poe adaptations is one that not many people are aware of. It is a story of sadness and woe. But a story where one can find great comfort in a tremendous plot of revenge and murder. It was published in 1864 and is called Hop Frog. Today you can find this story on YouTube and take witness to this amazing work of this adaptation. The name of the short film is called Fool’s Fire and you can watch it completely right here.
Fool’s Fire is a 1992 film directed by Julie Taymor and stars Michael J. Anderson as Hop Frog and Mireille Mossé as Trippetta. With voice actors of Tom Hewitt as the terrible king. The kings ministers were voiced by Paul Kandel, Reg E. Cathey, Kelly Walters, Thomas Derrah, Patrick Breen, Glenn Santiago and Patrick O’Connell. The film is an adaption of Edgar Allen Poe’s 1849 published short story entitled Hop Frog. Taymor developed, directed and designed the costumes and puppetry for the film herself. It first premiered at the American Film Festival in Park City and then aired on PBS in March of 1992.
This short film is one that I had a hard time trying to find. I saw this as a young boy and it has always remained a lingering shadow in my brain. I didn’t even know it was an Edgar Allan Poe story until later in life when I went to my Universities library book sale. They had an entire collection of Poe’s work in these six poorly conditioned books. You could tell they came from the libraries basement and suffered water damage. Regardless, the idea of having his entire collection of writings was something I wanted. While I was reading them the pages were ripping out and I knew they wouldn’t last. But as I started to read Hop Frog, it dawned upon me that I knew this story. It just furthered my delight because I felt like a treasure has been rediscovered.
Later I would search for this short film, thinking it was actually called Hop Frog. Little did I know and remember that it was called Fool’s Fire. Little did I know that other people witnessed the same film at the same time I did. Someone posted it on YouTube! So I watched and was again blown away.
Fool’s Fire only runs about fifty eight minutes but is absolutely amazing. I swear you will love this film and if you haven’t read the source; it will make you drop your jaw at the end. We have Hop Frog who is living a wonderful life with his family on their farm. As horse hooves approach the group frantically run and hide. Hop Frog leaps from his window and tries to run but is captured and forced to live as a slave. The king is the biggest ass and his subjects are even worse. They demonstrate these people as being gluttonous vagrants who swell in their own abhorrent oils. They make Hop Frog wear this hat with nails protruding out from it and he lives like a dog. The king hits him and gives him scraps during a feast. When another dwarf named Trippetta is given as a gift for the king and is abused. Hop Frog devises a plan… but I won’t give it away.
Needless to say, we get an extremely rewarding and moving end where Hop Frog has his day. But it is all brought together in this brilliantly mastered work of art. The puppeteering and alluring set pieces are so strong and vivid that they burn into your memory. The king and his ministers are disgusting and terrible people and the puppets only intensify these characteristics more than any live action actor could do. If you’ve seen 1964’s The Mask Of The Red Death with Vincent Price then you get an understanding of what I mean. Although Price is good in the movie… and evil as the Hop Frog style king, you certainly get a more intense and real vibe from Fool’s Fire. The puppets move and look repulsive… which is the intent. Hop Frog and Trippetta are the only two live actors and serve as a contrast the oily and infested world around them. They’re a direct contrast and it only builds your hatred for those that hurt our friend.
The film is artistic and is like a Picasso painting come to life and remains one of the best adaptations of any Edgar Allan Poe story. Hop Frog is a favorite character and the story serves as a wonderful example of vengeance. Maybe not a severe horror film but it is creepy in its own right. So check this out! If you’re like me then you grew up on Jim Henson and his Muppets. It may be a different tale of terror in that it is puppets… nonetheless a great tale that honors the tale. So this should be right up your alley. I for one love this movie and am glad to have shared it with you. Appreciate the splendor of Fool’s Fire on day sixteen of Horror Movie Marathon.