Fall of the House of Usher, The / House of Usher (1960)

“The Usher line is tainted, sir.”

Synopsis:
When a man (Mark Damon) visits his fiancee (Myrna Fahey) at her house, the butler (Harry Ellerbe) warns him to stay away and Fahey’s protective brother (Vincent Price) insists he must leave — but Damon is determined to rescue and marry Fahey at any cost.

Genres:

Review:
Peary writes that this “first of Roger Corman’s successful Edgar Allen Poe series for AIP” — followed by (among others) The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) — was, like the majority, “set in decaying, oppressive, life-consuming mansions that represented the minds of their unfortunate inhabitants”. He points out that “because there are only four people in the film”, screenwriter “Richard Matheson was stuck with the problem of writing a horror movie in which nothing could happen to anyone until the end” — so he “inserted numerous filler scenes that are there strictly for atmosphere”, and “to take up more time, his characters use about 10 lines when one or two would suffice.” However, Peary concedes that “the house is designed interestingly by Daniel Haller, the photography by Floyd Crosby is properly moody, and the film includes a typical flamboyant performance by Price (who was to these films what John Wayne was to Hawks and Ford westerns).” I’m in full agreement with Peary’s assessment; this one isn’t must-see but is worth a look, particularly for Price.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vincent Price’s delightfully hammy performance as Roderick Usher
  • Fine direction by Corman
  • Atmospheric cinematography and sets

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.

Links:

2 Responses to “Fall of the House of Usher, The / House of Usher (1960)”

  1. First viewing (10/27/19). Only a once-must for those interested in the Corman / Poe / Price series. As per my post in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):

    “It waits for me. …They all wait for me.”

    ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’: I had seen Corman’s ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ before but not the film that preceded it. …In it, a young man (Prince Charming-esque Mark Damon) travels to… somewhere in New England… until he gets to a mansion that is completely surrounded by dry ice. He has come in search of the woman he loves – who he spent quality time with in Boston. ~which is hard to figure out… how… that happened since, yes, she is in the mansion and her not-all-that-well-mentally brother has tried to keep her there under his thumb. Perhaps wanting to believe whimsically that they do have more fun, Vincent Price plays the brother as a blond (and clean-shaven). But he is also one more in a long line of the insane folk in the Usher family (hence his belief that his beloved sister is as doomed as he is) – so he spends a lot of time trying to get the boyfriend to “Leave this place before it is too LATE!” (The house is literally crumbling when the film begins. I love the servant’s explanation for that: “It’s just the.. settling of the house.”) Working with all of the same people who would stay on-board for ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ (including screenwriter Richard Matheson), ‘Usher’ is just as atmospheric and offers just as much soap opera.- but, with his follow-up, Corman would begin thinking about adding more… terror.

  2. A very fine adaptation and as it’s both highly regarded and the first of this significant horror franchise, a must see. Big box office hit as well. Well cast, well written and beautifully mounted.

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