Title: The House Of Usher
Release Date: June 22, 1960
Plot: On a trip to meet his fiance, Phillip Winthrop (Mark Damon) travels to the house of Usher and meets opposition in her gloomy, broody brother Roderick ( Vincent Price). Things then take a turn for the worst as Madeline appears to die and Roderick delves deeper into madness.
Review: Before I get too far into this review, it should be noted that I started out of order, as this is actually the first of the Corman Poe adaptations. And boy, does it show. Not that this a bad film,as anything with Vincent Price in it is bound to be somewhat decent. This one in comparison to last weeks film has quite a few rough patches.
The sets are both cheesey and cheap yet hauntingly lovely. Something about cobweb covered old mansions works really well with Poe’s stories. Much like in the story ( more on that later) , the mansion’s cracks and ruined state reflect the Usher bloodline. Both are collapsing and decaying, which leads to some glorious monologues from Price. This sybolism is reflected in the end of the film, as the mansion burns and collapses, consuming the last of the Ushers ( and a butler).
As with The Raven, there are a few changes here. The main one being that Phillip has come to see Madeline ( Myrna Fahey), his fiance. Madeline just kind of existed in the story, and Roderick was the one who requested Phillip come. Ah yes, Vincent Price, he never fails to entertain and here, he gets to be adorably moody and gloomy, while still being evil. His jackets are lovely. I want them. Though I must admit, that hair color doesn’t work.
There is so much monologuing by Price in this film, but these are by far the best bits of the film. Price being melodramatic as he bemoans the tragedy of his family’s downfall due to madness and death just makes me wanna hug him. ( I have a thing for moody guys, alright?) These scenes more than make up for the meandering that takes up the rest of the film. This one has plotting and pacing issues, which isn’t too surprising, seeing this is the first attempt at this. As a result tension is hard to come by and the action is very slow to start.
Madeline’s actress does a good job with what she was given, and her being entombed while alive, is actually a terrifying concept. One scene where she wanders around the Usher tomb could have been more terrifying, but again, pacing and music simply don’t help. The love story however, doesn’t work, as they don’t have much to work with. Mark Damon’s acting ranges from angry yelling, mild concern, and ‘romantic’. He’s no Peter Lorre.
There’s also a random butler who does nothing much beyond reveal that Madeline isn’t actually dead and keep Phillip around.
Highlights: Vincent Price is adorably angsty and monologues at every given opportunity. There’s also a very weird dream sequence outta nowhere.
Recommendations: This one is kinda dull, except for Vincent Price. If you absolutely love him, like me, the dull parts will be worth waiting through. For everyone else, yeah, feel free to skip this one.
Next week, we take on The Pit and The Pendulum.