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Mystery And Imagination: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER {TV} (Kim Mills, 1966) ***

Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
27 October 2013

This is one of just 8 episodes out of an original 24(!) that still exist today from this classy British TV series; it is also the fourth one from it that I am watching – after FRANKENSTEIN (1968), Dracula (1968; with Denholm Elliott in the title role), and THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY (1970). Denholm Elliott, here essaying with maniacal relish the role of the deranged protagonist Roderick Usher, is joined by the beautiful Susannah York as his equally disturbed and cataleptic sister Madeleine; on the other side of the coin we have David Buck (as Roderick's boyhood friend, who is curiously named Richard Beckett – as had been the main character in J. Sheridan LeFanu's "The Room In The Dragon Volant" – a TV adaptation of which was also made for "Mystery And Imagination" but is now believed lost!) and Mary Miller as the couple who inadvertently falls under the sickly spell of the house of Usher. The only other two characters who appear are the Ushers' bald-headed, mute butler and the clueless doctor attending to Madeleine's failing health. The brooding black-and-white photography and production design (by Assheton Gorton) add immeasurably to the atmosphere of dread (real and imagined) and decay (moral and architectural) – although the literate dialogue does make for a rather heavy-going if decidedly stylish whole. Incidentally, among the missing episodes of "Mystery And Imagination" is another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation: THE TELL-TALE HEART (1968)...

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