At long last! Our wait for the next installment of the Batman saga is over, and it’s everything we’ve ever wanted. Not only does it continue the great legacy of the Dark Knight, but it also marks the triumphant return of a character we’ve never truly given up on. No longer will we be forced to settle for two films a year – the next Batman will be hitting theatres every other month!
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we? Before we get into the cinematic details, allow me to take this opportunity to wax poetic on the awesomeness that is The Cask of Amontillado.
The Cask of Amontillado is a poem by William S. Hart, first published in 1901. The story focuses on a gentleman named Fantasio who is obsessed with cracking open a very specific type of bottle. When a magician named Montresor happens upon the scene, he encourages Fantasio to try other types of drink, pointing out that “all wine is not created equal.” It is the second part of a trilogy, preceded by The Queen of Spades and followed by The Devil’s Wine. All three stories feature Montresor, who goes by the name “Mr. Moto” in the manga adaptation of the trilogy by Osamu Tezuka. The anime adaptation of the trilogy features an altered timeline, and instead of Montresor, it is the magician Jigen whom Fantasio turns to for advice. (A quick Google search will turn up a ton of information on all three Hart stories, including the whole thing in readable form.)
The Cask of Amontillado is mostly remembered for the horrific and grisly “death” of another main character. While he is sleeping, Fantasio is visited by a burglar named Sanzio, who proceeds to cut off his hand in order to steal the diamond that the character is always seen wearing around his neck. Sanzio then jams a pistol in the center of Fantasio’s chest, and pulls the trigger… only to hear a loud clicking noise and discover that the diamond is made of glass. (This is in keeping with the titular “cask” that Fantasio is so obsessed with; the poem itself is filled with obscure references to jewels, precious metals, and the French Revolution.)
The impact of The Cask of Amontillado on its readers cannot be overstated. It is generally acknowledged that the poem inspired the entire Golden Age of Comic Books, leading to a veritable boom in the industry. Even today, the poem is credited with helping to “define the superheroic aesthetic” that would go on to influence some of the greatest comic book writers of all time. (The film adaptation is even more strongly influenced by the poem than the average superhero movie, to the point where some fans have actually referred to it as “Godfather II”.)*
The Cask of Amontillado would not be the only Hart story to inspire a major motion picture. In 1922, producer D.W. Griffith would adapt Hart’s The King of the Gamblers for film, and its climax would be cited as the inspiration for the “bravado” style of acting which changed the face of American cinema:
- While there are several bravado-style acting examples prior to The King of Gamblers, Hart’s story marks a watershed moment in screen acting, replacing the histrionics of previous decades with a more naturalistic approach that emphasizes both physical and emotional nuance.
- Griffith would later go on to adapt Hart’s The Devil’s Wine and would co-produce the 1934 re-make of The Cask of Amontillado. (That’s right, folks – three generations of Harts behind the microphone, all on one project!)
- In 1966, director Richard Brooks would bring the story of Fantasio, Montresor, and the rest of the Hart trilogy to the big screen, starring Tony Randall and Hugh Griffith. (This is the version of The Cask of Amontillado that most people are probably most familiar with; it was the basis for the 1971 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. In some ways, this adaptation is the quintessential “film noir” of the 1940s, embodying all of its existential angst, hard-bitten crime fighters, and cynical worldviews.
Taking Inspiration from Hart’s Poem
The Cask of Amontillado would not be the only Hart story to inspire a major motion picture. While promoting his new film, Pattinson shared a bit about the inspiration behind The Batman. (The film is scheduled for release on August 2, 2020.)
“There was another one that really inspired me,” said Pattinson. “It’s called ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’ It’s a poem by William S. Hart, and it’s a really weird story about a man obsessed with opening a certain kind of bottle. (It was first published in 1901.) ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ is this weird old thing about this guy, Fantasio, who is obsessed with opening this ‘cask’ of amontillado – this special kind of wine that becomes this thick black liquid if it’s not opened within six months of being sealed. (That’s what happens in the story.) He doesn’t believe in refrigeration, so everything just gets more and more dangerous as time goes by. During those six months, he’s opened it three times, and each time it’s gotten worse. The last time, he breaks into this creepy, old castle and opens it while the magician Montresor is asleep. As he’s opening the cask, he gets shot, and Montresor gets a gun, jams it in his chest and pulls the trigger – only it’s a trick ending, because it’s glass and it doesn’t hurt him.”
Pattinson continued, “When I read that, I was like, ‘oh my God, that’s what I want to do, have that ending.’ That’s a good way to end a film. You’ve got these two guys, and it’s like they’re talking themselves into this state of mind where they’re both going to blow each other away. To have it end like that, it needed to feel like something was missing, and I don’t know what that is. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and then I had an idea – maybe someone will come and save them, and it’ll be their guardian angel. So, even though it’s a really dark story, it had a really happy ending.”
Pattinson went on to credit the overall success of the Dark Knight saga to various directors who worked on the film, as well as to David S. Goyer and his team of writers. “The whole thing just kind of clicked, and I think that was down to the collaboration between everyone involved,” he said. “There were a lot of moving parts, and it was really satisfying to see it all come together. (The writers) did a good job of fleshing out these characters and this world, and making it feel real and alive. It wasn’t like we were making it up as we went along. It was really nice to have had that collaboration.”
The Cinematic Adaptation
While The King of the Gamblers was mostly remembered for its influence on acting, The Cask of Amontillado was just as important for its influence on cinema. (The entire Golden Age of comic books was, in fact, named after it; the phrase “Golden Age of Comics” is sometimes used to refer to comic books published from the early 1930s to the late 1940s, a time that roughly coincides with the original publication of Hart’s poem.)
It was first adapted for film in 1922, with producer D.W. Griffith taking the lead role (Griffith would also go on to adapt and direct the other two parts of the Hart trilogy). (That’s right, folks – three generations of Harts behind the microphone, all on one project!) This version of The Cask of Amontillado is notable for being one of the very first films to use a “bravado” acting style similar to that which was inspired by the poem. (This is the version of The Cask of Amontillado that most people are probably most familiar with; it was the basis for the 1971 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. In some ways, this adaptation is the quintessential “film noir” of the 1940s, embodying all of its existential angst, hard-bitten crime fighters, and cynical worldviews.)