Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Thad Ciechanowski helmed this highly impressive adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s landmark short story. The bitter Montressor, obsessed with seeking payback against the boorish wine connoisseur Fortunato, lures his oenophile enemy into a fatal trap.

The film takes a few liberties with the Poe text, most notably in shifting the setting from Italy to the United States and tacking on a prologue with an elderly Montressor providing the secret of Fortunato’s fate to his adult son (an American military officer who is clearly confused about the odd tale). However, the production design and appropriately eerie cinematography by Jeff Garton capture the texture of Poe’s unsettling story.

Frank Tirio Jr. subtly underplays the extremes of Fortunato’s behavior (it is refreshing to find an actor who plays an inebriate without going overboard), while Daniel JM Bielewicz provides a chilling interpretation of Montressor – his matinee idol good looks slowly gives way to a seething viciousness that explodes in a raging feral scream against his doomed victim.

This DVD release is designed for school viewing – the special features include lesson plans and the Poe story in PDF format. However, Poe fans and aficionados of intelligent thrillers – not to mention would-be construction workers eager to learn how to build a wall in record speed – will appreciate this wonderfully crafted short film.

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