Okay, so we’re barely into October and already pop culture is making Headless Horseman references. We’re turning creepy early this year. I feel unprepared for it, but if it’s going to happen, we may as well play along.
I made an attempt last year to actually read Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I failed. It’s not an epic story, it’s a short story that’s been included in any number of anthologies and has been read by perhaps millions of people. There’s really no reason why I can’t get through it.
Except that Washington Irving isn’t a particularly good writer. Edgar Allen Poe is known to have referred to Irving as “overrated.”
I suppose part of my difficulty with “Sleepy Hollow” is that there are so many versions of the story on film. I think I’ve seen (or suffered through) 90% of them.
I grew up watching the animated version, narrated by Bing Crosby. I remember laying on the floor in front of the tv at my friend Holly’s house when I was maybe seven or eight, watching through my fingers. How was it so scary then? It was animated. It bore no resemblance to the actual world outside. But I was scared.
There’s also a 1980 made for tv version starring Jeff Goldblum as Ichabod Crane and Dick Butkus as Brom Bones. If ever there was an instance of perfect casting, this is it. I haven’t seen it for a decade or more so if anyone has a copy of it, speak up. Amazon has it, but it’s only available on VHS. How is that even possible? And it’s not even cheap.
There have been a few other projects based loosely on the story (Sleepy Hollow High, anyone?), but your best bet for something watchable is Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. What it lacks in faithfulness to Irving’s original story, it makes up for in art direction. It’s just a really good looking movie. The costumes are beautiful. The horses are gorgeous (though poorly groomed). It’s just scary enough to not be stupid and not so scary that you can’t watch it with your pre-teen kids if they’re not too skittish. If TVGuide.com is to be trusted, it won’t be airing anytime in the next two weeks, but I expect it to air daily for the following two weeks. Otherwise, the widescreen version is on Amazon for about $12. Yes, widescreen. If you’re not watching widescreen, you’re messing with the artistic vision of the filmmaker. Don’t make me lecture you.
Also, the short story is available for your Kindle for free, also from Amazon. Give it a shot. Maybe you’ll get farther than I did.
Ryan Shurtleff (@RyanShurtleff)
October 4, 2011 at 1:10 am
My birthday is in October, when I was 7 my parents gave me a vinyl of Vincent Price reading the story… I can tell you there is little scarier to a 7 year old than that man reading that story! It has stuck with me. I agree that the story is little respected (as of late) but I would hasten to add that the Animated Version is a good run at one of the best “adaptations” there is. The Tim Burton version is good eye candy and he does good homage. I would have much rather see him do the homage in the animated style of Nightmare Before Christmas (lacking the lightheartedness of course)… I think that would have made it one of the greatest “holiday” movies ever.