A traveller arrives at the Usher mansion to find that the sibling inhabitants are living under a mysterious family curse: The brother's senses have become painfully acute, while his sister ... See full summary »
A traveller arrives at the Usher mansion to find that the sibling inhabitants are living under a mysterious family curse: The brother's senses have become painfully acute, while his sister has become nearly catatonic. As the visitor's stay at the mansion continues, the effects of the curse reach their terrifying climax, and he must choose between his concern for his hosts' safety, and his own. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
Let's look at two movies, both of which have as their subject matter a man haunted by images of his dead wife. Both films are photographed by their directors, and both star highly respected character actors. The first film is a remake of classic, and the second incorporates lengthy scenes from a classic. The first film cost around $47,000,000; the second, around $1.98. The first film is Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris; the second is Jess Franco's Revenge in the House of Usher. Guess which one is better?
Revenge in the House of Usher is director Franco's apology for, and commentary upon, his first breakthrough hit, the groundbreaking and highly influential The Awful Dr. Orloff. In that film Orloff was a Sadean Superman, perverse and transgressive, taking horrific delight in his bloodthirsty usurpation of traditional values. Here, transmogrified into Dr. Usher, he is reduced to a blithering and doddering old man, tormented by the images of the women that he has sacrificed to his appalling morality. Franco has often been accused of sharing Orloff's extreme misogyny, but anyone familiar with his work will know that Franco was alway's on the women's side. Franco makes clear that Orloff/Usher's 'project', his desire to resurrect his disfigured daughter, Melissa, is only a pretext, a trigger, a spur, to his grotesquely Sadean 'transvaluation of all values'. Appropriately, Melissa becomes just another anonymous tortured body; when revived by the blood of Orloff/Usher's victims, Melissa can only writhe in excruciating pain before lapsing back into blissful unconsciousness. Clearly, the tormenting spectre of Orloff/Usher's wife, whether real or merely Orloff/Usher's per fervid imagining, reproaching her husband for his dreadful treatment of women, is Franco's judgment upon the character that put him on the cinematic map.
Revenge in the House of Usher has taken a lot of abuse on this site, rather unfairly, in my opinion. Image Entertainment's DVD restores Franco's impressive, if somewhat erratic, visual style; and Howard Vernon, as Usher/Orloff, and Linay Romay, as his housekeeper, give excellent, committed performances. Yes, the film is slow, poverty stricken, and lacking in nudity and gore, but it is about something rather important, if only you, the viewer, will pay attention. There is a sensibility at work here, allied with considerable technical skill, that insists on persevering beyond all financial and other material limitations. It's a hell of a lot better than watching Ocean's 12 again.
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