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Neurosis (aka Revenge in the House of Usher)
Director Jess Franco's film Neurosis (also known as Revenge In The House Of Usher, titled after the Edgar Allan Poe story on which the movie is loosely based) tells the tale of Dr. Alan Harker (Antonio Mayans), a noble practitioner of the medical arts who travels to pay a visit to his mentor, Eric Usher (Howard Vernon), who may or may not be centuries old. The one time university teacher has been a recluse these last few years, now suffering from strange hallucinations and increasing bouts of paranoia, though his housekeeper, Maria (Lina Romay), who is fooling around with Adrian (José Llamas) the stable boy, does what she can to help him.
Harker, upon his arrival, realizes the poor state that Usher is in and tries his best to help him, but one night, while wandering the basement of the castle, comes across a group of women bound and caged in a cell. He wakes up and Maria tells him it was all just a dream, but we know better. As it turns out, Usher and his disfigured assistant Morpho (Olivier Mathot), have been abducting women of ill repute from the nearby town with the intent of using their blood to resurrect and sustain Ushers wife, Edmunda (Fata Morgana)…
This probably sounds better on paper than it does as executed here. Franco's story is disjointed, padded by some very lengthy clips from The Awful Dr. Orloff, a picture that the director made with a younger Vernon two decades earlier. This footage appears in the film with Vernon's narration overtop, presented to the viewer as a flashback scene. To be fair, the aspect of using existing footage of a younger Vernon to play a younger version of Usher isn't the worst idea in the world, but it's clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of Franco's career just where this footage originated from. Morpho appears in the ‘flashback ‘footage as well, but is played by a different actor.
The movie will still be of interest to the Franco faithful, however, even if it is far from his best work. The locations used in the film are as impressive as ever and it's always great to see Franco and Romay working together. Mayans isn't bad as the film's hero, and Vernon really gives this his best shot, overdoing it a little bit at times but at least giving it a try. It's also interesting to see frequent Franco composer Daniel White show up in a supporting role in the picture. The film isn't nearly as exploitative as many of his other pictures, there's no real nudity here and only mild violence, though the story does imply darker things than it shows on screen.
The biggest problem with the picture is just how disjointed and poorly paced it is. There are times where, over the course of ninety-minutes, nothing is really happening. Franco has a talent from creating atmospheric, dreamlike compositions and moods and he does just that in many of his better picture. To a less extent he does it here as well but it doesn't click, the movie winds up dragging, failing to ever really build an sense of danger or any real tension or suspense.
Neurosis comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, taking up just over 23GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The transfer hasn't been restored so expect some print damage throughout, though most of it is, thankfully, quite minor, though it is fairly constant. Colors look okay, though appear to be slightly faded in a few spots. There are shots where it looks like Franco was using natural lighting and during these moments, contrast and lighting can look a bit less than perfect. Still, this is more than watchable and very film-like. Detail in most scenes (though not all) is pretty solid and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement related problems.
A 16-bit English language LPCM track is included on the disc, as is a Dolby Digital French language option with subtitles provided in English only, translating the French dialogue. It's a shame that the French track wasn't the lossless option as the film plays better that way. Still, it sounds decent enough, if a bit limited in range. The English track does have a bit more depth to it and sounds a tad cleaner as well. Both are more than serviceable options, but the dubbing on the English version is laughable at times.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas who delivers another of his typically very detailed talks about the history of the film and the people that made it. He covers where Franco was at during this point of his career, Eurocine's involvement in the production, the source material that the story was based on and how this take compares to Poe's story, some of the recognizable locations employed for the shoot, the history of the production and what happened during the course of its making, the influences of Orson Welle's adaptation of Shakespeare's MacBeth in a few scenes, and of course, the use of footage from The Awful Dr. Orloff and how that has been incorporated into this film. Along the way we also gets lots of information on Franco himself as well as key cast and crew members. There's a lot of good information in here.
Aside from that, the disc includes a trailer for the feature as well as menus and chapter selection.
Neurosis is lesser Franco, to be sure, though those who are obsessed with his work will appreciate having it in high definition even if the elements used here were in less than perfect condition. Lucas' commentary track adds value and important context, but it's a shame a lossless option of the French language track wasn't provided here. Those who already know they want the film should, by all means, jump in (because you know what you're getting), the curious would be best served by a rental first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.