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Kat Miss30 May 2001
"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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A Gothic classic and one of Roger Corman's best films.
capkronos12 May 2003
Corman's first Poe film (out of eight) is one of the best adaptations of the familiar story (rivaled only by French director Jean Epstein's superb, yet completely different, 1928 version) and was a critical and commercial success in its day on a meager $125,000 budget. Vincent Price is superb as Roderick Usher, an eternally tortured soul who lives in a crumbling castle with his sister Madeline (Myrna Fahey) and faithful butler Bristol (nicely etched by Harry Ellerbe). When Philip Winthrop (bland Mark Damon) shows up to take Madeline away, Roderick's incestuous feelings come to surface and the terror begins. Highlights include Damon's colorful nightmare sequence and Price's explanation of the Usher family history.

HOUSE OF USHER is intelligent, subtle and effective, with good sets and costumes and excellent work from scripter Richard Matheson, composer Les Baxter, cameraman Floyd Crosby and art director Daniel Haller--all united by Corman's smart, stylish, fluent direction. Truly deserving of it's reputation as horror classic.
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Corman makes Poe proud
The_Void17 December 2004
The first of Roger Corman's adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories stars Vincent Price as the head of the Usher house; Roderick Usher. Roderick Usher believes that there is an evil curse on his family, a curse that is also the reason for his and his sister's affliction. Because of this curse of evil, he doesn't want the Usher family line to continue and so he has decided to do all in his power to stop it. However, his sister, Madeline's fiancé has come to the Usher house to take her back with him, but Roderick knows that this will mean that the Usher family line will continue and he cannot allow the evil to spread across the world....

Roger Corman is often seen as a 'cheap' director because of the vast amount of films that he has made. Although this is certainly somewhat true as a few of them aren't particularly good; if you take a look at his Poe films, this couldn't be further from then truth. Here, Corman creates a constantly morbid and foreboding atmosphere; not with shocks or other cheap methods, but by simple things such as smoke, an old house and it's creepy inhabitants that utter the most malevolent of lines, some of which are truly bone chilling. Of course, this movie benefits implicitly from the presence of a man that is maybe horror's purest actor; Vincent Price. Price was born to play roles like Roderick Usher, and anyone that sees this film wont find it hard to see why. Vincent Price delivers his lines with just the right tone in order to make him obviously evil, but yet pathetic at the same time; just how the character should be played. When it comes to the 'greatest actor of all time' awards, Vincent Price never gets mentioned, but this is a great injustice; as anyone who has seen a number of films will know.

Corman also succeeds in creating a constant sense of intrigue, and the audience is left hanging on every moment, as we can't wait to see what happens next. Of course, Edgar Allen Poe can take much of the credit for this as the great man did write the story that it was based on, but Corman comes off looking good as well as it is his direction that makes the story so consistently thrilling. The movie also benefits from some very lavish sets, which gives the movie it's upper class dinosaur feel. The house itself is a great piece of horror imagery; it is responsible for most of the atmosphere that is present in the movie.
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"I suggest you live, mr. Winthrop. No? Then perish with us".
Grouchy20035 October 2003
This is Roger Corman´s first Edgar Allan Poe-based movie and probably the best of them all in terms of direction, acting and script. It´s certainly the best adapted one, because it manages to build a larger story around the events of the tale without borrowing material from other tales and without making it seem obvious, unlike the sequels. Anyway, probably my favorite is still "Masque of the red death" which is also my favorite Poe tale. The rest deserves a look, of course, but it doesn´t get any better.

Vincent Price stars as Roderick Usher, a man obsessed with the tragic history of the Usher clan, filled with psychopats, murderers of all kinds and people who die of incurable illnesses. He forces his sister Madeline (Myrna Fahey) to stay in the house waiting for death to spare the world the horrors of the Usher family in years to come and even builds two separate coffins for them. Madeline´s fiancee (Mark Damon) goes looking for her to the house and is received by the obedient butler Bristol (Harry Ellerbe). From there on this four characters will go through a lot of arguing, running around the House (which, like in the Poe tale, is a character itself, one of a really menacing nature) and digging on ancient secrets. Any Corman or Poe afficionado can figure out the rest of the story by himself, but it´s a joy to watch it evolve here.

The star of the show is Vincent Price, of course. He puts in a black robe or a red silk suit and speaks in a low, soft, modulated voice, throwing his overwrought dialogue while the others just stare at him with surprise and fear. He has a special weakness of the hearing (I have the same problem, BTW, although not to this extent) and in one scene the fiancee screams at him hard enough to make him twitch in pain. In that scene you realize just what a genius he is. The set decoration is also to be noted (you won´t forget easily the paintings of the Usher family members by Burt Schonberg), as is the music and practically everything that sets the unbelievable mood this movie has.
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A Masterpiece of Gothic Horror Cinema
squeezebox7 May 2004
Roger Corman's brilliant adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's chilling tale is one of the greatest achievements in cinematic horror. It's hard to pick one of Corman's Poe adaptations as the best, but this, the first, might be it.

The movie is fairly faithful to the story, but extremely faithful to the tone of Poe's writing. No one but the team of Corman and writer Richard Matheson could pull it off like this. Poe's deranged sense of dread and sardonic humor are all here, in every shot.

Vincent Price turns in one of his finest performances as Roderick Usher, a man who is glad that he and his sister, Madeline (the wonderful Myrna Fahey) are the last of their bloodline, as he believes the family is doomed to all eventually go mad. He also suffers from hyper-sensitivity, and must have quiet, dim light, soft clothing and bland food, otherwise he suffers extreme pain. Whether this is a physical or psychological anomaly is never confirmed.

Madeline's fiance Philip (Mark Damon) comes to the house to claim Madeline as his wife. Roderick forbids it, believing he and his sister should die together, thus ending the Usher line of insanity. But it may be too late, as Madeline is already showing signs of flipping out, and Roderick has some pretty twisted ideas of how to stop that from happening.

The movie leads up to a spine-tingling finale that's as intense and scary a climax as anything I've seen. HOUSE OF USHER is a great horror movie, and perhaps the most faithful adaptation of Poe, both in content and style, ever filmed.
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Vincent Price without his moustache...
Lee Eisenberg22 April 2006
In one of the many classic adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe tales, Vincent Price creepily shines yet again. When Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) goes to an estate to pick up his fiancée Madeleine Usher (Myrna Fahey), he learns from her brother Roderick (Price) that she and he both suffer from a degenerative disease that gives them both acute senses. Sure enough, it turns out that all is not quite what it seems.

Probably the most noticeable thing about this movie is that Vincent Price lacks his famously eerie moustache. But in a way, that almost makes him more mysterious. Roger Corman scored another triumph here. You're sure to love it.
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One of the best Poe/Price films, with one of Price's best performances
TheLittleSongbird5 August 2012
Overtime the horror genre has really grown on me, and Vincent Price, one of my favourite actors has been a big part of why. The Fall of the House of Usher was the film that spawned a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, and is up there with the best of them like The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven. Whether it is completely faithful to Poe's writing I am not entirely sure, whatever way it makes little difference to me. All that matters for a film is how good it is on its own merits, and The Fall of The House of Usher in my mind is more than good, it's great. The settings, costumes and the way the film are shot is both Gothic and gorgeous to look at in their lavishness, and the music is suitably spooky. The script is very literate and quite intelligent, while the story is always compelling and delivers its spooky scares with not an ounce of predictability or hamminess. The ending really convinces in its creepiness and in its tragic undercurrent, making it moving as well. The acting is fine, Mark Damon gets better throughout the film and by the end he really comes to life but to start with I did find him a little too wooden for my tastes. Myrna Fahey and Harry Ellerbe characterise splendidly, but the film belongs to Roger Corman's lively direction and especially to Vincent Price, who is always great but gives one of his best ever performances here, with his ever commanding presence, his distinctive voice, Skakespearean-like line delivery, droll sense of humour and a sense of melancholy, every single of those are here and make for one memorable performance indeed. In conclusion, a great film worth seeing for Price alone though the production values, the atmosphere and how intelligently it's written also are fine attributes. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Spooky flick every step of the way.
spacemonkey_fg26 August 2005
Title: The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

Director: Roger Corman

Cast: Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey


Vincent price is one of those actors everyone knows about, almost everyone is aware of his horror legacy, and if anything they know him as that creepy voice in Michael Jacksons "Thriller". And maybe some of us also recognized him as Edwards creator in Tim Burtons "Edward Scissorhands" or as the narrator in Burtons stop motion animated short film "Vincent". Recently I decided to venture into Vincent Prices horror legacy. I decided to start watching all of his films, after all the man has got a huuuge library of horror films all waiting to be slowly digested by yours truly...boy was I in for a treat!

The story is about Roderick and Madeline Usher. The last two remains of the Usher family. A family that according to Roderick is cursed forever, and he is very decided to end the family line with him and Madeline. So naturally when a young strapping man by the name of Phillip Winthrop comes in and has all the intentions of marrying Madeline Usher, well Mr. Roderick completely opposes and tries to stop the wedding from ever occurring at all costs.

This movie has many good things going for it. First off: The House of Usher is based on Edgar Allan Poes "The Fall of the House of Usher" so its no surprise that the story is poetic in nature and beautifully written. It also helps that the screenplay for this story was written by non other then another one of horrordoms greatest writers. I'm speaking of course of Richard Matheson. And on top of all those bonuses, the film has Vincent Price in the lead role as Roderick Usher, the man who lives a tormented life, thinking that his family is cursed. Combine Edgar Allan Poes story, with Richard Mathesons screenplay and Vincent Price acting, and my friends you have got yourselves a bonafide horror classic.

Having Roger Corman, the producer and director of hundreds of low budget b-movies had me worried for a second. I mean he has got some really bad films under his belt, but in between those there's some really good ones as well. But of course I am only familiar with some of the schlock that he has produced as of recently (like the Carnosour films for example) but I wasn't fully aware of the high quality directing that he had done in his past and I fully intend on continuing my exploration of his Vincent Price/Poe films.

Now let me put this to you straight. This is the type of film that you watch on a dark stormy night with all the lights out and nothing to disturb you. The films atmosphere can be cut with a knife, you get your spooky castle in the middle of nowhere, the fog rolling in like there's no tomorrow, the wind blowing the curtains, the fullmoon, get the whole enchilada my friends. I had Tim Burtons Sleepy Hollow as my all time spookiest movie ever made, but I have to say that this one takes its place, well if anything, its definitely a heavy contender. This movie had both the look and feel of a slightly more expensive Hammer film.

The films story is its great asset. The mystery of the Usher family curse pulls you in. You want to know if something is really up with this strange family or if its just Mr. Roderick Usher that has a boner for his own it all in their minds? Or is there really a curse? What will happen to the poor bastard who wants to marry Madeline? These questions pull you in and finally when you get all the answers, well, you will be nothing short of being blown away.

In short, if you want one of those old fashion spooky films where the winds always blowing, the full moon is always at its peek and the thunder and lightning is always rumbling...well go rent/buy this flick right now, you wont be disappointed.

Rating: 5 out of 5
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Tainted bloodline. Creepy thriller.
Michael O'Keefe10 February 2001
Director Roger Corman does his thing with a classic piece from Edgar Allan Poe. A visually fantastic production. A tense and moody horror tale of a young Bostonian (Mark Damon)traveling to the Usher family mansion to collect his beautiful bride-to-be(Myrna Fahey). The eager suitor is told by her brother(Vincent Price)that the family's blood has been cursed and he should rethink a marriage.

The mansion, surroundings and atmosphere bring a chill. The evasive Price is very convincing in his role as doting brother and master of the house. Great spooky movie to watch on a rainy night.
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Vincent Price and the Plague of Evil!!
Coventry11 February 2004
House of Usher is the first Edgar Allan Poe adaptation in a series (seven, to be exact) directed by Roger Corman, and probably my number one recommendation if you're looking for a good old-fashioned spooky tale. Corman merely lays the stress on the comedy-factor in his later efforts, but House of Usher still has the ability to frighten the bejezus out of you through a complex plot, a nightmarish atmosphere and horrific decors. The screenplay is very loyal to Poe's tale of the Ushers…Two remaining siblings, cursed and constantly punished for the evil of their criminal ancestors. Price is brilliant as usual in his role of the over-concerned Roderick Usher, convinced that his fade is sealed and his remaining days are doomed. Multiple memorable highlights in this film, like for example a ghoulish dream-sequence, a breath taking decent in the family vault and a truly petrifying act of vengeance! Classic and successful combination of mysterious Gothic and stylish horror, not to be missed if you're a fan!
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The ultimate dysfunctional family
WarpedRecord29 October 2007
"The House of Usher" oozes atmosphere through every nook and cranny. Vincent Price is superb as Roderick Usher, the extremely protective brother of Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). When Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon), Madeline's suitor, comes to call, he learns of the family's legacy of madness and death.

Roger Corman's adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story is alternately beautiful and terrifying, with grandiose views of the house's interiors, a fantastic dream sequence that was well ahead of its time in 1960, and colorful images that seem to leap from the screen.

But Corman's direction would be meaningless without the powerful performance of Vincent Price, who fits the tortured role of Roderick like a corpse fits a casket.
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The first EAP from AIP.
BA_Harrison25 July 2015
The first of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations from American International Pictures, The House of Usher opens as Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) arrives at the Usher ancestral home—a crumbling pile in an arid, foggy landscape—looking for his bride-to-be, Madeline Usher (the lovely Myrna Fahey). He is greeted there by Madeline's brother Roderick (Vincent Price), who asks him to leave. Not one to take no for an answer, Philip remains, staying for the night, determined to take Madeline away with him the next day. Roderick, however, is resolved to keeping his sister at home whatever it takes, believing his family to be under a curse that causes strange maladies, evil ways, and premature death.

House of Usher is about as Gothic as it gets, featuring a foggy landscape, an old dark house full of cobweb-strewn secret passageways, an elderly butler who knows more than he is letting on, a dusty old crypt, and a raging thunderstorm; but as atmospheric as the setting is, I didn't find myself all that engrossed in the mystery that unfolds. Instead, I found it all rather boring, Roderick's repetitious insistence that his family is cursed and Winthrop's steadfast refusal to believe what he is told becoming rather tiresome. Admittedly, the production is sumptuously mounted, with impressive sets and lovely colour cinematography (used particularly effectively during a hypnotic dream sequence), but on the whole I was left rather unimpressed by this much-loved horror 'classic'.
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The Beginning of Corman, Price, and Poe
LeonLouisRicci27 October 2013
Some say that this is the Best of Director Roger Corman's Poe Films, those that do are Constantly Reminded of the Masque of the Red Death (1964). This one is Understated and not as Lavish as the Other, but has more Psychological Concerns and Tension on its Mad Mind.

Here Vincent Price has Striking Blonde Hair and is Without Mustache, but his Mellifluous Tones and Impeccable Gothic Readings give an Uneasy Air along with the Stifling, Suffocating Catacombs.

The Film is Gorgeously Filmed with Color Saturation and some Unsettling Artwork and Castle Settings that makes the House one of the Participants in this Slow-Burner that Fires Up in the Third Act from its Melancholy Beginning.

If You are Interested in Corman or Price or Poe, this is a Good Place to Begin in that Cycle, since its the First. If Their Other Work, Outside this Series, is of Importance it's Still a Great Introduction because this is an Excellent Piece.
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Unnamed Horrors
James Hitchcock28 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Fall of the House of Usher" was the first in a cycle of films based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe and made by Roger Corman between 1960 and 1964. (All but one of these starred Vincent Price). As with some of the later entries in the series, Corman makes a number of changes to Poe's story. Poe never explicitly states where the action of his story takes place, but his references to the house being many centuries old suggest a location somewhere in Britain. (In his lifetime few American houses would have been older than a century, and none older than two centuries). The film, however, is explicitly set in New England, with the explanation that the house was dismantled and re-erected across the Atlantic when the Ushers emigrated.

Poe's nameless narrator is invited to the house as a boyhood friend of its owner, Roderick Usher. Here he is given the name Philip Winthrop and is the fiancé of Roderick's sister Madeline. In the story Roderick and Madeline are twins, but here Roderick is a middle-aged man considerably older than either his sister or Philip. In the original Madeline only appears briefly before her death, but here she is given a more important role. Most importantly, Corman introduces a moral theme not found in Poe. (He was to do something similar in a later Poe film "The Masque of the Red Death", where the innocent young girl Francesca is introduced so that her goodness can act as a foil to the villainy of Duke Prospero).

Poe's Ushers were a distinguished family, noted for their charity and their patronage of the arts; there is nothing to suggest that the decline in their fortunes is in any way connected with their moral character. Here, Roderick and Madeline are the last survivors of a family notorious for wickedness, cruelty and vice, many of whom went mad, and it is implied that their evil has blighted the surrounding countryside and suffused the very walls of the house itself. Poe used the phrase "fall of the house" in a double sense, referring to both the decline of the family and the physical collapse of their home. The film does the same, but with the implication that this "fall" is the natural result of, and a just reward for, centuries of evil living.

Despite its divergences from Poe's plot, however, the film still keeps an essential feature of his story, namely the atmosphere of psychological terror which pervades it. Much of this is due to the performance of Vincent Price (Neither Mark Damon as Philip nor Myrna Fahey as Madeline makes much of an impression). Like Poe's character, Price's Roderick is a man prey to all sorts of fears- he is hypersensitive, a hypochondriac, obsessed with the evil deeds of his ancestors and tormented by the idea that, like them, he is doomed to madness. He believes firmly that if Philip succeeds in his intention of taking Madeline away from the house some unspecified evil will follow. The Madeline we see in this film, unlike her counterpart in the original story, initially seems physically and mentally healthier than her brother, but it quickly becomes clear that she has health problems of her own, and that she may also be in danger from another source.

This was the first film which the studio, American International Pictures, made in colour. AIP had only been founded six years earlier, and had hitherto specialised in low-budget black-and-white movies, often aimed at the teenage market. "The Fall of the House of Usher" was made on a rather higher budget than most earlier AIP films (although still lower than the average film of this period) and was clearly aimed at a more prestigious market. In some of his later Poe adaptations, such as "The Masque of the Red Death", Corman was to reveal himself as a master colorist, but here the use of colour does not really add anything, and it struck me that this is a film which might have been better had it been made in black-and-white. Certainly, monochrome photography was becoming unfashionable in the American cinema in the early sixties, but films like "The Haunting" from three years later show that it was still possible to make effective black-and-white horror movies during this period, and Poe's story might have benefited from a similar expressionist treatment. The exterior scenes of the old house might also have seemed more convincing in black-and-white. Another visual element I disliked was those curious paintings of Roderick's ancestors, as their crude, modernistic style seemed very inappropriate given that the action is supposed to take place during the 1830s or 1840s.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" has some similarities with the last film in the Poe-Corman cycle, "The Tomb of Ligeia"; in both films there is a certain ambiguity as to whether the characters really are threatened by supernatural evils or whether these evils only exist as fears in the mind of the Vincent Price character (called Verden Fell in the later film). I would not rate it quite as highly as "The Masque of the Red Death", but overall, it is a pretty good film, a good example of the "understated" style of horror. ("The Haunting" is another such). The actual horrors which we see on screen are less important than the unnamed horrors which are hinted at but not shown directly. 7/10
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Oh, yes.
oyason17 November 2005
The reputation that Roger Corman's FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER has built for itself is well deserved. Easily the best of Corman's "bend til it almost breaks" Poe story lines, the film offers Vincent Price at the very top of his form, in a steady, measured performance that never loses steam. Price's daughter Victoria talks a lot about the man's insecurity around his talent in her biography of him. Well, all artists are entitled to that. But his work in HOUSE OF USHER stands out even when ranked with his work in any other film genre. The dude could act, and with a vengeance.

The storyline itself takes liberties with Poe, but unlike many of Corman's other Poe films, this one succeeds in producing atmosphere that breeds a certain unsettledness in the viewer. Roderick Usher (Price) and his sister Madeline (Myrna Fahey) are here, of course, but Poe's narrator-a boyhood friend of Roderick in the original tale- is converted to a suitor Phillip Winthrop (Mark Damon)in order to add romantic intrigue to the opus. In Corman's USHER, this young man has come from Boston to wed Madeline, and take her back to the city, where she allegedly had an earlier life in upper class society. Standing in the way is Roderick, who insists that Madeline can go nowhere, as she possesses a genetic madness and evil in her bloodlines. She is dying, insists Roderick, and this is as it should be. All the Ushers need to die, so that the family evil- and the evil of the house itself- will live no longer.

Winthrop, convinced that Roderick is merely projecting his own insanity onto Madeline and the house- which is in deep disrepair- makes every effort to take Madeline away the following day. But before he can do so, Madeline dies. Or so it seems. In actuality- and as in the Poe story-- she has fallen into a cataleptic trance. Roderick knows this, but hides the fact from Winthrop, and with loyal family butler Bristol(Harry Ellerbe), buries Madeline alive. Once Winthrop figures this out, he drives himself crazy trying to locate Madeline- who has awakened from her fit, and has now gone into a deep manic rage, stalking through byzantine secret passageways looking for people to murder. She finally succeeds in killing Roderick, herself, and Bristol, and the house- which, in Corman's view, actually is the source of all the grief in the story- falls in flames. The credits roll.

Aiding this small cast are a number of other players portraying family ghosts. Some of what you'll see in this film is the progenitor of a formula that Corman would beat to death (bizarre, spectral dreams that haunt the hero) in later films, but here it all is, as it was fresh and new, when Roger Corman was first getting his chops. In a word, it's outstanding.
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Fall and rise...
jc-osms7 August 2012
The first of Roger Corman's low-budget adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe's Gothic tales of horror sets a convincing template to which the producer/director would return time and again.

Created with an eye for period detail and utilising the charisma of Vincent Price to intrigue and occasionally scare the viewer, the story moves slowly but surely, like a descent to madness, to its fiery conclusion. With only four players and, not unnaturally, given the prominent part the house itself plays in the narrative, the movie is very set-bound, with eerie music turned up whenever a scary scene looms, the claustrophobic stifling atmosphere is in keeping with the conclusion of the story.

Price is excellent, as the doomed, ghoulish brother Usher of his pretty but sheltered sister, the aptly-named Madeline. There's also a faithful butler on tow, to help move the action along and reveal key background facts, but I can exclusively reveal that he didn't do it. Mark Damon swoons and raves as Maddy's ardent but thwarted lover to compete the cast.

Shot in lurid colour, with highly atmospheric background music, it would be easy to mock the heightened acting which occasionally borders on the wrong side of camp, but Price's presence and Corman's skill with cinematography and story-telling deliver a fitting tribute to Poe's work.
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"Peculiarities of temperment!?"
Backlash0072 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers

The Fall of the House of Usher was the first journey into the world of Edgar Allan Poe taken by Roger Corman. It's also the first film of his I saw and set the standard for all future Corman/AIP productions. It's beautifully photographed, has a chilling story at its core, and Vincent Price delivers the goods. Scripted by Richard Matheson (known for some great Twilight Zone episodes), this Victorian bit of horror takes place in an ever-increasing, dilapidated mansion. The house is really just another character in this story. It's a story about love and madness: the love of young couple Madeline and Philip, and the madness of Roderick Usher that will bring the house down, literally. Price brings the character of Roderick Usher to life with a restrained relish. He's just chopping at the bit waiting for the finale to release it all. I don't have any problem with saying this is one of Corman's best.

"Evil is not just a is a reality."
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One of Cormans' all-time best.
Scott LeBrun14 November 2016
Mark Damon plays the role of Philip Winthrop, a young man who travels a long way to the Usher estate, where he intends to reunite with his bride-to-be, Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). He enters to find a rather forlorn, forbidding environment, and a future brother-in-law, Roderick (Vincent Price) obsessed with the Usher family's dark, dark history. Roderick is utterly convinced that he and Madeline are doomed, that nothing can be done to save them, and that Philip would be very foolish to try to remove her from the house.

Producer & director Roger Corman began his series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with a flourish with "House of Usher". It wasn't made with the intention of beginning a series, but was so successful commercially and critically, that A.I.P. heads James Nicholson and Samuel Arkoff urged him to make more. Corman assembled a masterful team that would be worthy collaborators for most of this series, including production designer Daniel Haller, cinematographer Floyd Crosby, composer Les Baxter, and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who adapted the Poe tale. The style and substance of this now classic horror film helped to establish Corman as a legitimate, accomplished filmmaker, and not just a man who could shoot fast and cheap.

Price offers a nuanced, subtle performance as the tortured lead. For those who think that he might have gone for theatrics a little too often during his career, they should be reasonably impressed with his work here. The beautiful Fahey is entrancing as the victimized sister, and Harry Ellerbe is excellent as the loyal butler of the estate. Handsome young Damon can't quite bring the same amount of gravitas to his role, but he's not bad, either.

Highly recommended to lovers of Gothic horrors. This one has earned its place among the best of them.

Nine out of 10.
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A fine film, possibly the best of the Corman-Poe cycle
tomgillespie20022 August 2013
Up until 1960, Roger Corman's American International Pictures (AIP) were making low-grade movies, mainly in the science-fiction and horror genre, but also branched out into JD and teen rebellion movies. They were making profit but little of it, mainly due to the rise in household televisions, and when people went to the movies they wanted to see a big budget and big stars, not square-jawed block heads and men in rubber suits. So, trusting Corman's abilities as a director, AIP coughed up the dough, brought in real film stars, and created what is widely believed to be their finest film, The Fall of the House of Usher, loosely based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, and what was the beginning of the Corman-Poe cycle of movies.

Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) arrives at the House of Usher, a grand mansion that has fallen into decay, surrounded by murky swamps and a ghostly graveyard. He seeks his fiancée Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey), but is instead met by her strange brother Roderick (Vincent Price). Roderick has a crippling disease that heightens his senses, meaning that a loud noise or any physical contact causes him extreme pain. Madeline, he says, has fallen deathly ill and is waiting to die, as is he. They will die along with the house, which is close to collapse. Philip is not convinced, and vows to stay until Madeline leaves with him, but Roderick is adamant that she will stay, and put an end to a cursed bloodline that has bred for centuries.

This has little similarity to the atmosphere of Poe's short story, and screenwriter Richard Matheson naturally takes creative liberties with the text. Poe's story is surrounded by mystery and metaphors on the human psyche, whereas Corman gives us less to imagine or ponder, and creates something that feels more like a traditional haunted house story. But this is not a criticism, as Corman had few pages of text to work with and so naturally expanded the story to fit the movie screen, and the film is absolutely beautiful. Bringing in cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who won an Oscar for his work on F.W. Murnau's Tabu (1931) and did extraordinary work on High Noon (1952), the camera-work creates a sense of claustrophobia. There is also a standout scene that uses colour saturation to create what feels like another level of reality, as the Usher spirits gather in the basement.

And, of course, it has Vincent Price, here without his moustache and almost peroxide blonde hair that evokes an albino, giving a performance of effortless creepiness. The man was simply born to do horror - his voice, appearance and undeniable presence is perfectly suited to the genre. His character is interesting - he is undoubtedly mad, crippled by a strange disease and a sense of guilt for his family's blood-stained legacy, but has arguably good intentions. It's the subtlety of his performance that makes it so effective, as is the subtlety of the movie as a whole. It doesn't need a monster or a vengeful ghost, or even a 'bad guy' at all, as it's the house that looms over them all. This is a fine film, efficiently polished and tightly directed by Roger Corman, who you would swear had been directing A-grade features for years before this.
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Subdued and melancholy shocker.
Prichards1234520 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
House Of Usher was, of course, the first of the Corman/Price/Poe collaborations, and while not quite the best it certainly captures the spirit of Poe extremely well thanks to Richard Matheson's literate screenplay. Matheson added a love interest to the story for Madeline Usher, but it's totally true to the spirit of the author that this romance is doomed from the start.

Aided by some marvellous cinematography and clever use of sets the film looks gorgeous. And Les Baxter's score is terrific. In their Poe films AIP had the knack, like the Hammer Films of the time, of making a low budget go a long, long way

Rather than have the narrator simply arrive at the house to spend time with his childhood friend Roderick Usher, Matheson creates drama by having Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) turn up to claim Madeline as his bride. He has reckoned without the ailing Roderick Usher (Vincent Price)who is convinced a family curse has doomed both him and his sister. The evil doings of the line of the Ushers has poisoned both the landscape and the minds of their descendants.

What makes the movie tick of course, is the superb performance of Vincent Price and the astute direction of Roger Corman. No actor ever looked better in period costume than Price, and despite his reputation as a knowingly-humorous ham he is both sensitive, softly spoken, and melancholic here. Of the tiny cast, Myrna Fahey and Harry Ellerbe are also very good - Fahey goes from gentle romance to raging madness during the course of the film, and she does it very well. Only Damon disappoints, looking uncomfortable - a late 50s actor dressed up in an 1840s costume.

While the pace is quite slow it suits the material, and apart from the climax perhaps the best scene is Price's tour of the Usher ancestors, with some marvellous Burt Schoneburg paintings to flesh out the grisly details.

To summarise this is a fine start to the Poe series, perhaps bettered only by Pit And The Pendulum and Masque of The Red Death.
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The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain13 December 2011
Roger Corman comes up with a rather respectable film. Sure, he has some great material to work from, but between his Little Shop of Horror and Sharktopus, this certainly sticks out. He's lucky enough to get Vincent Price involved. A man that was born for horror, though he isn't confined by it. There is genuine chemistry between him and his sister, which makes the ending, not only shocking, but tragic too. As the house crumbles away the tension mounts. Is the house alive? Or is the psychological pressure all a bit much. The art direction is also well constructed. The Gothic wood scenes are creepy and the house itself does seem to be a living organism.
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Too plastic and artificial, but still Poe
Catharina_Sweden11 January 2011
It feels a little unfair to find faults with a movie made 50 years ago, especially as one knows that this movie was highly thought of in its time. On the other hand - there are many movies which are even older than this one, that do not come out as dated as this one...

_Everything_ was of a quality that simply should not have been accepted today: the make-up of the actors, the props, the cobwebs, the skeletons, the walls of the castle... It was all so plastic - so obviously painted and fake. This destroyed the illusion. And the "ghostly wailing" was ridiculous beyond belief...

Still, Vincent Price is always Vincent Price - he was always so good as these creepy and mystical, but still aristocratic and attractive, characters... The young man ought to have been played by some bigger, stronger and more forceful man, though, and Madeline by someone more soulful and innocent-looking...

The Poe story in itself is very good of course, and it makes up for many of the silly blunderings in this movie, as the movie is still quite faithful to it.
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One of the worst ever watched
kausix77717 May 2008
This film does not work, in a large part due to the poor performances. I had read the story in childhood and it was dissimilar to the one picturised here, although the setting was the same.

There have been many films in many languages with a castle as the background and evil souls occupying it - then there's the cellar, where most of the souls usually emanate from or end up in. I know this is an older one from the genre but this famous story could have ended up as a much better and well-executed film than what it turns out to be.

Not only was there no horror here, at times it did not even appear dramatic any more. It was plain boring to watch delayed reactions and overacting from the cast. I continued watching until the end, not even in the wish to know the end but just because I had bought the DVD quite expensively (at least in my opinion).

It might have been better in black and white.
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Excellent combination of Corman, Poe and Price...
Neil Doyle31 October 2006
HOUSE OF USHER is probably the best of all the Edgar Allen Poe stories that VINCENT PRICE did under Roger Corman's direction. It's an elaborate looking production, handsomely photographed and looks far more expensive than the actual budget allowed. Especially good is the climactic fire scene showing fierce destruction of the house.

As Roderick Usher, Price brings his regal bearing and distinguished presence to an interesting role and gets good support from MYRNA FAHEY as Madeline Usher and MARK DAMON. As others have pointed out, filmed before and since--but never as effectively as Corman does here.

Filmed in widescreen CinemaScope, it loses something if you see it in the pan and scan version on TV. This was at a time when Corman was doing a lot of inexpensive B&W horror films without the benefit of color and expensive trappings. He made the most of a plum assignment.

The story has a young man arriving at the Usher Victorian mansion to announce that he wants to marry Madeline, Usher's sister who, it seems, is too ill to see him at the moment. Usher resists the idea that the man will ever marry his sister--indicating that the family is tainted with madness. The young man is determined to stay and suffer whatever consequences there are. As a dedicated servant, Bristol, HARRY ELLERBE gives a convincing performance as a man conflicted by his loyalties.

And, of course, there are plenty of consequences when Roderick makes it clear that the man will not leave with his sister for a life in Boston. As is clear from Roderick's explanation of the pall of evil that hangs over the house, it's inevitable that the story reaches a climax that destroys all of the evil before it can spread like a plague.

It's Gothic Victorian melodrama in the grand manner--played to the hilt by Price and some good supporting performances. Well done, for this kind of thing.
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