House of Usher
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for House of Usher can be found here.

Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) comes to see his fiance Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) at Usher House, a desolate mansion surrounded by a murky swamp, only to learn from her brother Roderick (Vincent Price) that she has taken ill and is confined to her bed. Despite Roderick's warnings, Philip refuses to leave without seeing Madeline and eventually learns of a mysterious curse that has plagued the Ushers for generations and that Madeline is soon to die a horrible death.

House of Usher is based on the short story, The Fall of the House of Usher, by American horror writer Edgar Allan Poe [1809-1849]. The story was first published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in September 1839 and was slightly revised before being included in a collection of his fiction entitled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1840. The story was adapted for this movie by another American fantasy/horror writer Richard Matheson.

Like many movies of this era, no medical or scientific explanation for a malady is offered to the audience. In the case of the Ushers, Roderick explains to Philip that the Ushers are prone to a condition that makes all their senses super sensitive so that their ears cannot tolerate loud noises, their eyes cannot tolerate bright light, their taste buds cannot tolerate most food, etc. Eventually this condition drives them to madness. Bristol (Harry Ellerbe), the servant, tells Winthrop about the Ushers' problems with their heart and with catalepsy. There is also some suggestion that the house itself may be the source of the debauchery and madness that has afflicted the Ushers for generations.

When Philip learns that Madeleine is still alive, he goes searching for her. When he finally finds her, it is apparent that she has gone mad. She attacks him and, in doing so, she sets the room on fire. As the fire takes over the room, she attacks Roderick. The fire destroys the house. Only Philip escapes.

One must weigh everything the movie shows and suggests, and finally the viewer must decide. Some of the things Roderick says appear to be quite true, such as the stark and dying land around the Usher house, his heightened senses, etc., but he also comes off as being sinister to a large degree, which causes the viewer to understandably favor Madeline and Philip in their desire to leave. Near the end, however, even Bristol warns Philip that Madeline is mad, and Roderick earlier had said to Philip that 3/4 of his family had fallen into madness and in their madness developed a super human strength that took the power of many to subdue them. When Philip tries to restrain Madeline at the end, she throws him down with her superior strength and then overwhelms Roderick. Madeline had time to "snap out" of her rage running through the house at the end if she was completely normal, so one probably has to hesitatingly admit she carried the Usher madness.

Those who have both seen the movie and read the short story report that the movie varies from the story in several ways. For example, there is no Philip Winthrop nor any other love interest for Madeline. Also, the narrative is told by a school friend of Roderick Usher. Still, they say that the movie adheres well to the creepiness and scary nature of the story.

Edgar Allan Poe's stories are in the public domain. You can read "The Fall of the House of Usher" on numerous websites, such as here or here.

Yes. Altogether, Corman made eight films based on Poe's stories. The first was House of Usher (1960). This was followed by Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964).


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