Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the brutest torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died ... See full summary »
After a long journey, Philip arrives at the Usher mansion seeking his loved one, Madeline. Upon arriving, however, he discovers that Madeline and her brother Roderick Usher have been afflicted with a mysterious malady: Roderick's senses have become painfully acute, while Madeline has become catatonic. That evening, Roderick tells his guest of an old Usher family curse: any time there has been more than one Usher child, all of the siblings have gone insane and died horrible deaths. As the days wear on, the effects of the curse reach their terrifying climax. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher and Nina <email@example.com><firstname.lastname@example.org>
Roger Corman learned that there was an old barn in Orange County, CA, that was about to be demolished. He was able to strike a deal that would allow him to burn the barn at night and film it. The resulting footage was so good that it was used not only in the climax of this film but in later "Poe" films as well. See more »
When asked to remove his boots, Phillip sits down and starts to remove his right boot, but stops when he realizes Bristol has disappeared. He then stands up and walks away in socks. See more »
[as the house starts to rumble]
How long has that been going on?
So long I'm hardly aware of it anymore. It's just the settling of the house.
That settling could cause this entire structure to collapse. That doesn't worry you?
Oh no, sir. If the house dies, I shall die with it.
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"House of Usher" is an excellent start for Roger Corman's cycle of films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. There have been many remakes, but the Corman films remain the definitive statement. Corman was able to capture the feel of Poe's work and that's something that the remakes couldn't even touch. It also provides a tour de force for Vincent Price and establishes him as a great actor.
The film was shot on a budget of $270,000 and it looks GREAT. "House of Usher" is a fabulous calling card for American International Pictures, the distributor. Mostly known for making grade Z schlock, Corman's films gave AIP real class. This is also Corman's first film in CinemaScope and he makes the most of the widescreen here. It earns him a distinction of mine as a "Master of the Widescreen", or filmmakers who create complex and worthwhile compositions in the widescreen frame. The only problem is that the Poe films die on TV, due to the horrific "pan-and-scan" process. Luckily for us, American Movie Classics show these Poe films often in letterbox and MGM is releasing the cycle on letterboxed DVDs.
For a film that runs 85 minutes, "House of Usher" packs a lot into its' narrative. It is the most faithful of the Poe adaptations, although screenwriter Richard Matheson does take some liberties with the source material, as any great adaptation should. Floyd Crosby's CinemaScope photography is excellent as usual and Daniel Haller's elaborate sets make this look more expensive than it really is. Vincent Price's performance as Usher sets the tone for his future appearances in other Poe films. It neatly combines calm and frenzy together and I can't think of anyone else who would have done a better job. He should have received an Oscar nomination and maybe even the Oscar itself.
Note: "House of Usher" introduces the infamous "Burning Rafters" sequence. If you watch these Poe films back-to-back, you'll see this same sequence repeat itself over and over in several of the films (Tomb of Ligeia and The Raven come to mind). It is a mild criticism, but it is such a great sequence and it is so effectively shot that I didn't mind seeing it again and again.
**** out of 4 stars
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