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Fall of The House of Usher: SE, The
Back when Roger Corman was directing 15 or 20 films a week, he enlisted the great Vincent Price in six screen adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe works. Corman's productions were lean on budget, but heavy on style and sold in large part by the conviction of Price's performances. Pictures like Pit and the Pendulum, Masque of the Red Death and the monster hit that started it all was House of Usher (1960, 78 minutes, aka. The Fall of the House of Usher).
The movie: A brash young fella (Mark Damon) from Boston travels to the Ushers to ask for the hand of the woman he loves (Myrna Fahey). Her reclusive brother Roderick (Price) does everything within his power to make Philip feel wholly unwelcome by swearing that REALLY awful things will happen if the lovely Madeline were to leave the crumbling Usher homestead. Rod claims they're both stricken by a horrible family curse that will lead to their eventual madness, yet he's unwilling to admit he's ALREADY courting the loony bin. Most anything of real interest seems to happen at night when Philip wanders the house trying to track down strange noises -- your basic haunted house stuff, including a basement crypt complete with dead Ushers who won't stay in their coffins. But no matter how weird the scene gets Philip is undaunted and determined to make Madeline his ever-lovin' woman. That is until Roderick ups the ante.
Notables: No breasts. Three corpses. Gratuitous dream sequence. Cobweb-covered skeletons. One rat. Coffin clawing. Possessed fireplace. One lizard. Stop-motion photography.
Quotables: Roderick isn't the most gracious host, "I have warned you sir. Whatever consequences may follow your refusal to leave are upon you alone." Mr. Winthrop emotes, "IS THERE NO END TO YOUR HORRORS!?!"
Time codes: Vincent Price leaps into the picture (5:42). Strangeness ensues (14:00). Hall of portraits document the Usher's gnarled family tree (40:42).
Audio/Video: Remarkably clean and absolutely vibrant W-I-D-E-S-C-R-E-E-N (2.35:1) transfer -- the reds are especially pronounced. Utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track.
Extras: Nostalgic audio commentary by the reigning King of Bs. Corman says this is the first he's watched the film in about 20 years, so there are occasional gaps when he gets wrapped up in the picture and is silent. Roger's a little monotone, but he gets tickled when a theory he's expounding on about the flick is literally proven more-or-less wrong while he's talking. He shares lots of nuggets of practical cinematic wisdom. Yet, he dishes no dirt. Theatrical trailer.
Final thought: A classic film that's also a classic example of how a gifted filmmaker and talented cast can realize the full potential of a chilling story. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.