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Dr. Alan Harker (Robert Foster) receives an invitation and arrives at
the house of his former professor at the Prague University, Roderic
Usher (Howard Vernon), who lives with his housekeeper Helen (Lina
Romay) in an old castle. Dr. Usher is insane, living with ghosts, and
invites his former student Harker to proceed with his research. He
tells to Harker that when his daughter Melissa (Françoise Blanchard)
died many years ago, he had developed a means to reanimate her using
the blood of prostitutes. Along many years, Dr. Usher and his assistant
Morpho (Olivier Mathot) kidnapped and killed many young women to keep
Melissa alive. But when Harker meets Dr. Seward (Daniel Villiers), who
is the doctor of Dr. Usher, he explains that Dr. Usher is delusional.
What is the truth about Dr. Usher and his secret?
"Revenge in the House of Usher" is a boring, lame and messy movie by Jess Franco based on the story of the Edgar Allan Poe. The plot is a senseless mess, the old castle is actually a preserved castle, there is no continuity in the edition in this forgettable film. My vote is three.
Title (Brazil): "A Queda da Casa de Usher" ("The Fall of the House of Usher")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most of the user comments which I concur with are based on the French version produced by Eurocine. This is a Spanish film written, photographed and directed by Franco that was re-edited for its French and English versions by Eurocine which included adding the footage from THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF as well as the whole subplot with Usher's daughter and Morpho in the contemporary part of the film (Vernon and protagonist Antonio Mayans never share the screen with the two French actors). The Spanish version features Vernon recollecting or imagining murdering a number of women. I don't understand Spanish and there are no subtitles on the version I saw but its an atmospheric mood piece that is far easier to watch than the French/English version (though even that version plays better on DVD in French with English subtitles). I'm rating it a 5 because I don't know how well it will hold up with an English translation but it looks better made and conceived than the Eurocine cut. Even though it was made in 1983 (well after the other Franco's death) around the same time as some of his explicit Golden Films productions, there is no nudity and little on screen bloodshed but it shows that Lina Romay can definitely act when clothed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Revenge in the House of Usher" is said to be one of Jess Franco's worst film. However, this happens to be one of my favorite works of the celebrated director (well, depending on the cut, that is), and while it will not appeal to everyone, fans of European haunted house films like "Lisa and the Devil" and Franco's own "A Virgin Among the Living Dead" will find plenty to enjoy here. Incidentally, one of the reasons why people hate it so much (or so I think), also plagued the other two films, as the most common version is in fact a butchered recut. Originally released in Spain as "El Hundimiento de la Casa Usher", the film flopped and only resurfaced when Eurocine got it's hands on it, removing some of the original's most startling sequences and substituting them with an new subplot to cash in on the success of Franco's "Dr. Orloff" films, and even adding scenes from "The Awful Dr. Orloff" poorly edited into the mix as flashbacks. To it's credit, this new cut actually does a good job with the new footage, as they are quite atmospheric and interesting, and one can see they actually made an effort for it to look like it belongs to the same film but get tend dull and repetitive after a while. Now, back to "El Hundimiento...", Franco doesn't go for a straight adaptation of the story even though it does have a similar premise and climax. It's faithfulness lies at recreating the themes and mood of Poe's work, taking elements from more than one of his stories ("Ligeia" in particular is referenced throughout) to create something more unique. For my money, this film along with Jean Epstein's superb 1928 take on the same story is the one that actually comes closest to achieve that decadent atmosphere of morbid romance. The Spanish deserts may not be one's ideal location for the house, but here it actually works a lot, and remains close to Poe's description of it although in a rather unconventional matter. The never-ending daylight, a Franco trademark, is used to great effect too, creating a suffocating, feverish atmosphere throughout (also giving the idea that Usher's delusions may have something to do with that oppressive sun). The castle itself is absolutely stunning and is beautifully photographed. The use of shadows and natural light during the interior sequences is excellent, proving once again that Franco always has a great eye for shooting on locations. There are plenty of gorgeous, darkly Gothic compositions throughout, with the architecture always playing an important part. One of the most compelling aspects of this production is that Franco is aiming for a kind of 20's/30's Gothic . Compared to genre works of the same kind made during that period, it may feel helplessly outdated, but that's part of the charm. Unlike what some have grown to expect from him, there is no on screen sex and nudity, with most of the "dirty" stuff implied, which I personally feel is a wise move and works in a Val Lewton kind of way. Everything from the script and particularly Daniel White's non-stop melodramatic score just screams old-school, expressionistic horror. Although these scenes were added in under producer's insistence, some of the film's most interesting additions is that Usher may or may not be be a vampire serial killer. It isn't clear whether these killings actually took place, but they are truly powerful moments. The build-up for the first death scene is particularly incredible, with great use of expressionistic lighting, and the conversation between prey and attacker. The most downright disturbing murder is that of a little girl. The scene itself is already creepy with it's open suggestion of pedophilia, but having him actually kill her and feast on her blood on screen makes it quite difficult to watch. Howard Vernon's totally demented performance also helps in making this bit particularly convincing, as he really does seem to enjoy doing it. Speaking of Vernon, I must say this is his most impressive performance under Franco's direction. He is mostly lonely, introspective and melancholy, occasionally turning (sometimes in the same scene) gleefully over-the-top and hysterical; and also quite monstrous and downright scary. Although Mayans is sadly unimpressive and dull as the narrator/protagonist Harker; Lina Romay more than makes up for it as the servant Helen. Despite the absence of her usual masturbatory fits, Romay's acting is actually one of her all time best, serving as a kind of dead ringer for Helena Boham Carter in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd". In fact, I find her even more sexy with her clothes on, playfully seducing on the members of the household and oozing a sleazy, "femme-fatale" like charm. She also delivers some of the best lines, as well as the film's few moments of dark humor. Although I can't find her name in the credits list, the actress who plays the ghostly Edmunda deserves special mention as well. From her frightening introduction in a "Kill Baby Kill" inspired scene, she has a strong, ethereal quality on her. As for flaws, the film moves at a very slow pace (it worked for me, but I can definitely see why some can call it boring), and with a rather stiff protagonist. Also, this is a very low budget production, and it shows. The climax in particular suffers from the poor production values, with a very unconvincing "fall". The scene is made up basically from shaky camera angles and falling furniture. Still, this happens right after one of the film's most memorable sequence: Usher's encounter with his victims' vengeful ghosts, which may just be the most powerful moment in the film, akin to the powerful, haunting finale of "A Virgin Among the Living Dead". As a whole, "House of Usher" may not convince Franco bashers of the man's talents, but for more seasoned fans of the director and low-budget Eurohorror in general it is essential viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jess Franco movies are a real iffy proposition. For every truly decent or good film you might stumble across, there are at least a dozen duds. This particular flick rates highly as an unmitigated stiff. Dr. Alan Harker (the insipid Antonio Mayans) visits his unhinged and reclusive former university professor Dr. Eric Usher (an embarrassingly hammy performance by a pasty-faced Howard Vernon) at Usher's remote crumbling castle. Usher tries to resurrect his comatose daughter Melissa (pretty Francoise Blauchard) by giving her the blood of lovely abducted young ladies. Of course, Usher sinks further into insanity as both his mind and castle continue to deteriorate. Franco completely fumbles the ball in every conceivable way: the lethargic pace crawls along at an excruciatingly sluggish clip, the script is drab, talky, and uneventful, Daniel White supplies a very annoying wonky droning score, the bland cinematography likewise fails to impress, Franco doesn't bring any style or energy to the drab proceedings, and, worst of all, there's absolutely zero graphic gore or gratuitous female nudity on hand to alleviate the severity of the stupefying boredom. A protracted flashback consisting of copious footage from Franco's earlier (and far better) "The Awful Dr. Orloff" doesn't help matters any. You know a Franco feature seriously smells when the ever-luscious Lina Romay pops up in a sizable supporting role, but never takes her clothes off. In fact, this drippy, static and inert lump of wasted celluloid is so incredibly atrocious that it's often a downright painful chore to sit through. The castle does inevitably fall apart at the bungled climax, but by then it's way too little much too late. A godawful lemon.
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.
A traveler 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
Why has this film been given the new name of "Zombie 5"? I mean, sure, it is a stretch to say it is based on Poe's "House of Usher", but it is an even bigger stretch to try to say this somehow fits in the Italian "Zombie" franchise... not even close.
People seem to hate this film, and I can see why. The effects are terrible: the poor use of a spotlight to simulate a hand-held light, the strange eyeball. One reviewer said they fell asleep twice in the first fifteen minutes. I did not find it nearly all that bad. Cheesy, sure, A bit weak on plot, certainly. But I have seen a lot worse than this, even from Jess Franco.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Revenge in the House of Usher" is a highly disappointing effort.
Receiving word that his ex-professor and mentor needs to see him, Dr. Alan Harker, (Antonio Mayans) is mysteriously summoned to the castle of Dr. Eric Usher, (Howard Vernon) and find he has gone completely mad. Upon his arrival, the old man confesses his years of misdeeds, admitting to kidnapping young women with the hope of curing his daughter Melissa, (Francoise Blanchard) of her catatonic condition by giving her their blood. His blind assistant Morpho, (Oliver Mato) aids in his twisted quest, involving embryonic stem cells in his techniques. He begins to suffer a series of strange delusions of sorts, including several of the women he has seduced and killed. Convinced that his comatose daughter has been targeted by the apparitions, he hurriedly rushes to get them under control with all the help he can get before they stop him and take over the family.
The Good News: This isn't all that terrible. The most striking fact is this looks incredible, with the access to a real castle being a major plus, and full use is made of it, shooting numerous scenes up on the battlements for no good reason other than they look good. Much of the film's photography is quite attractive, giving it a wonderful look that evokes a great Gothic vibe and atmosphere. At times, it does seem to belong to some other movie. There are times that it is a throwback to the expressionist style, and it almost works on that level. The dense hues, such as the blinding yellows, deep reds and disturbing oranges, seem to be what the most interesting feature of the film. This has a pretty decent pace to it, with lots of creepy visions of the hallucinations troubling the man. They're quite creepy and actually have a nice quality to them. It's hard not to say them without spoiling how great they were, so they can't be revealed but each one was quite impressive to see transpired. Other than that, there wasn't much else in it.
The Bad News: This is a sadly disappointing film for several reasons. The fact that most of the plot is so familiar is because the film owes much more to the Orloff verse than to Poe. The ill daughter Melissa, as well as the blind assistant Morpho and the use of inserts are fixtures that hark back to the earlier films. The inserts themselves are the biggest problem, since it pads out the running time with obviously inserted footage just so that the film time could be padded out. It's a series of weird inclusions that don't go well. Yet there are inclusions here that don't quite fit well either, such as the introduction of characters from the Dracula story, including Harker and Dr. Seward. The result is rather on the incoherent side, lacking in logic or driving story, and successfully evoking a disturbing fever dream. Those expecting gore and sex in a Franco title will be sorely disappointed, as the usual inserts of blood and breasts are absent here. With only one moment of anything more than implied blood, and with that being cut back to a mere shot of a bloody knife, is almost unbelievable and really hurts this film. It's almost a shame to say that the film needed to be sleazier. There are a number of scenes here that look quite terrible and not at all good, most notable in the climactic fall, which is accomplishes by jiggling the camera, throwing a handful of dust, and using a squishing sound. The scene is less than successful. This ultimately is a disappointing film.
The Final Verdict: This was a strangely disappointing Franco entry that just seems so rushed and haphazardly put together that it robs it of most of the virtues going for it. It's mostly interesting as a Franco exercise, but most of those interested will be put off by what's wrong, so only the most loyal, apologetic Franco fans should get this.
Rated R: Violence and some Language
Amazing! Once again Franco hits the fan with an incredibly strange picture. Slow to the point of boredom, awfully cheap-looking (there is no photography to speak of), it is also extremely badly played. Howard Vernon hams it up a lot, and the whole thing looks more like a stage play than a cinema movie. There is no real plot, only typically Franco-ish characters (stupid, pointless, bored and flawed) filling the place with screams and talk. As Usher remembers the past, many sequences from THE AWFUL DOCTOR ORLOFF are inserted to achieve the running time of 90 minutes. No need to say, the ending of it all is more than welcome. Doctor Orlof strikes again! God bless Jess!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apparently there are several versions of this Jess Franco directed
project. This appears to be the French version, dubbed into English,
and featuring 'The Living Dead Girl' herself, Françoise Blanchard (as
Melissa). Amidst the candle-lit wailings, darkened, crumbling passages
and overwhelming architecture are Franco veterans Lina Romay (the
housekeeper, Maria) and Howard Vernon (Eric Vladimir Usher).
Whilst clearly out of the hands of Franco, it has to be noted the dubbing for this is pretty appalling. Whether the voice artists are actors at all, is debatable the exception is Usher's voice-over, which sounds like an impression of James Mason.
The story, twisting and meandering and far too thin, involves Doctor Alan Harker (echoes of Dracula? There is also a Doctor Seward, who has in times gone by played by a different actor featured with Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and fleetingly, a werewolf under Franco's direction) who visits the house/castle of his former Professor Usher. Usher is clearly insane and looked after by his housekeeper. His daughter (Blanchard) died years before, but can apparently be reanimated by the blood of prostitutes, who are kept imprisoned within the castle.
Despite the effective (and beautifully shot) locale, this is clearly one of the less budgeted Franco productions. Whether an artistic decision or a financial one, there is a lot of stock-footage from the earlier, far more acclaimed 'The Awful Doctor Orloff (1962)'. There is far too much of this, although these flashbacks are far superior to the film they are supporting. Although it features a younger Vernon as Orloff/Usher, the actress playing Melissa is noticeably different. The story of Orloff has been changed to fit the narrative of 'Revenge in the House of Usher.' When this was released, audiences weren't as privy to recordings of earlier films as we are these days, so the use of such footage is possibly justified. Seen now though, it seems like a way of backing up a weak story and padding out the running time. As a result, this is a patchwork affair. It isn't, as has been suggested, Franco's worst production the locations alone are incredibly atmospheric and really promotes Usher's magnificent isolation, as does the minimalist soundtrack. And yet whilst saturating the viewer in its macabre mood-scapes, it remains an often ponderous exercise, with Franco's two trademarks sex and gore almost entirely absent.
I really have to give up on Jess Franco movies. This film was a total ripoff for anybody expecting a gory version of a Poe adaption. It had very little to do with Poe's famous story and much to do with Franco's previous Dr. Orloff film. A good chunk of this mess is scenes from Orloff and looks like what it is: padding. The box art for the version I saw has a woman being menaced with a power drill: no such scene exists in this movie. What does remain of Poe is a badly done retread of earlier efforts concerning the fall of the house of Usher: all done better by the 1960 film by Roger Corman. Nothing to recommend. I have heard there is a Spanish version that is completely different and much better but at this point who cares?! Avoid!
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