This is the movie that made Vincent Price my idol!
Rod Labbe | Waterville, Maine | 02/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1960's, when I was a kid, the NUMBER ONE horror star was definitely Vincent Price! True, he started scaring us out of our shorts in the 50's, what with HOUSE OF WAX, THE FLY, THE TINGLER, and (best of all, in my humble), HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. But it wasn't until he joined forces with American International Pictures and Director/Producer Roger Corman that Vinnie carved his niche as a true American horror icon! THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER started it all, the first in what's come to be known as "the Poe cycle." Released on tape in the mid 1980's (an inferior transfer), HOUSE OF USHER (its title, once the credits roll) has never looked better than on this gorgeous DVD. Colors are rich, sound is crystal clear, really, it's like seeing the film in a movie theater! And Vinnie, oh, Vinnie, he's in fine form here as the tragic Roderick Usher. Plagued by an over-heightening of the senses, he can't bear to hear loud noises or smell anything stronger than the most delicate perfume (yet, it doesn't prevent him from strumming a few off key notes on his mandolin!), Roderick is a tragic figure indeed. And what an imposing sight! Breathtaking, even! This is Vincent Price's most startling and compelling characterization--snow white hair, blue eyes, pale complexion, and that oh-so-very proper way of speaking and acting. I loved Hammer Films, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but Vincent Price was somebody we could call our our own, a true national treasure! Corman's direction is solid, and he makes the most of his limited cast (only 4 people) and budget--but everything looks so luxurious and expensive! You've got to remember that AIP was notorious for cranking out cheapjack black and white quickies for the juvie market--so HOUSE OF USHER was an utterly drastic change of pace for them. And it paid off, big-time! PIT AND THE PENDULUM (also available)soon followed, with TALES OF TERROR, THE RAVEN, and MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, et al,waiting in the wings! Can't wait for them to all hit DVD--and if MGM's Midnite Movies claims them, we can expect quality, quality, quality! Oh! I should mention that Corman does an interesting and humorous commentary! Attractively packaged, moderately "PRICED," THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER gives you MUCHO bang for your buck! Vincent, you may have departed our mortal world in 1992, but your legacy is alive and well! We'll never see the likes of you again, sad to say!"
"I heard her first feeble movements in the coffin..."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Roger Corman and AIP had great success relating the tales of Edgar Allan Poe to the screen, and it all started here with The Fall of the House of Usher (1960). While not always exactly faithful to the source material (how many are?), the films sure are fun to watch. House of Usher stars Vincent Price as Roderick Usher, Myrna Fahey (who once dated Joe DiMaggio and received a death threat because a deranged fan couldn't stand to see DiMaggio with anyone other than Marilyn Monroe) as his sister Madeline Usher, Mark Damon as her fiancé Philip Winthrop, and Harry Ellerbe as Bristol, the butler. Scripted by famed horror/fantasy/sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, who also worked on the later Corman/Poe/AIP films like Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), and The Raven (1963), The Fall of the House of Usher marked new ground for AIP and Corman. Previously, the studio was content in putting out two black and white films at the same time for minimal cost, Corman convinced the studio heads to take the money to make two of those films and let him use it to make one film in color, and the result, this film, turned out to be a huge box office draw in 1960.
Anyway, the film starts off with Philip riding up to a massive, dark, and as we find out later, crumbly house of Usher. The grounds around the house show no signs of life, but only death and decay. The house actually looks a lot like the creepy house you always see that the beginning of those old Scooby Doo cartoons. Seems he's come to see about his fiancée Madeline, as they had met in Boston where they both lived, and she has since returned home. This is when we meet Roderick Usher, a handsome, yet odd sort of fellow, who we learn has a painfully acute sensitivity of all the senses, preferring the dimmest of light, the blandest of food, the softest of clothing, the mildest of odor, and the quietest of sounds. We also learn, from Roderick, that Madeline is sick, and no one is allowed to see her. Philip, not understanding what's going on, refuses to leave until he can see Madeline, and Roderick finally acquiesces. She seems all right, but later we learn what the sickness is...one, not so much of body, but of a madness supposedly passed down through the Usher lineage. You see, the house and the grounds were once fertile, and full of life, but evil overtook the Usher line, displayed in the many crimes perpetrated by the various ancestors, poisoning the family and the estate, or so says Roderick. The presence of malignance is so oppressive, it's causing the centuries old house to crumble under its' own weight. I personally think it's due to lack of upkeep, but what do I know? Anyway, Philip pushes to take Madeline away from the house, but Roderick is intent on keeping her there until such time as she and he pass, effectively ending the Usher family line. His fear is that she should leave and procreate, extending the evil that has survived so long. The question of evil and its' ability to be passed down is brought up, along with the idea of evil being not so much limited to an abstract idea but a real, almost tangible quality that infects and destroys people and objects. Where does evil live? In the mind? The soul? Can it be transferred? Can a place, with a history of evil acts performed within, actually become so seeped in evil that it becomes evil itself? Well, soon Madeline suffers a heart attack and passes, due to all the excitement that Philip has brought, so says Roderick. Madeline is put into the family crypt in the basement (that's convenient), but is she really dead? Maybe not...seems there's a history of narcolepsy, a disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by paralysis and hallucinations and would sometimes make the sufferer to appear dead, in the Usher family. Did Madeline suffer from such a malady? If so, then I'd hate to be her when she wakes....
The film moves along nicely, except for maybe the dream sequence. Corman always seemed to like throwing in crazy dream sequences in his Poe productions, and sometimes they helped add to the film, sometimes they sort of ground the proceedings to a halt, in my opinion. Never being really a big fan of the cinematic dream sequence anyway, this one, at least, was short. Price and his costars all do a wonderful job, and I especially liked Fahey near the end. Price seems to envelope the role of Roderick Usher, fitting into character perfectly. If I ever read the actual Poe story, I know I'll always have a picture in my mind of Price as Roderick. What an interesting visage she provides...very scary, even for the hardened horror fan. The music, by the accomplished composer Les Baxter, really complements the visuals in creepy fashion, filling out the overall effect provided by really excellent sets.
The wide screen print here looks really good, but there are occasions where speckling and print damage were noticeable. It's very slight, and did little to lessen my enjoyment of the film. Special features include a theatrical trailer for the film, and a separate commentary track by Corman himself. I have to say, I think this is not only one of the best Corman/Poe films of the eight that were made, but one of Corman's best films period.
A first rate gothic horror thriller
Christoph Berner | Vienna, Austria | 03/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"By far the best of all Vincent Price / Roger Corman adaptions of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, this is really a horror film that should be regarded as equal to the 30`s classic horror movies like Dracula or Frankenstein (it certainly is scarier than watching Karloff wander around in front of painted backdrops). In fact, "House Of Usher" is not only a straight thriller, it is also a very poetic movie, it has a good script, a haunting score (especially in the crypt sequence) and a very well crafted set design (just watch Corman`s opulent use of colors). If the climax is somewhat hurried it is more than made up by the frightening atmosphere of the film. When I watched it as a child in the early eighties, it was one of the few old chillers that really scared me to death ..... and it will certainly entertain everyone who enjoys to watch really good vintage horror thrillers (Vincent Price`s morbid characterization of Roderick Usher is worth a few shocks alone)."
Corman, Poe, Price and the American Drive In
Bob Barr | New Orleans, LA USA | 02/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After all the years that have passed since the Corman/Price "Poe" series first ran, it is hard to explain just how breathtaking these films were, especially in the heartland. When they were new, those of us in the large patch in the middle of America, and were raised on drive-in movies, saturday kiddie shows, and afternoon TV "matinees" were frankly surprised by how good these films really were. The Corman/Price movies provided a welcome switch from summer films with plots built around sex-crazed cheerleaders, pulchritudinous stewardesses, over-heated summer school teachers, and hormonally-crazed student nurses. This is an interesting observation in the face of the reality that Corman was also notorious for making movies about those self-same nymphomaniacal cheerleaders, stewardesses, summer school teachers, etc, etc, etc,
The Poe series was smart, well costumed, often humorous, occasionally freaky, and generally unique in its day. These films were often so far ahead of their time that they probably went unnoticed by most of the Hollywood establishment (the best films still do). When they weren't uniquely fabulous, they were at least far enough over the top (as in "The Raven" where we have Vincent Price, Perer Lorre, Boris Karloff, and a very young Jack Nicholson loudly chewing the scenery) that we didn't care.
Of course, no one would have been more surprised by the plot twists that these films took than E. A. Poe himself. We frequently wondered if Corman had read the same stories we had, but in the end, it didn't really matter. Corman is a grand storyteller whose artistic vision remains true even in the face of what appears to be deep cynicism about the quality of his product and the intelligence (certainly the sophistication) of his viewing audience. Price was, of course, a magnificent and sophisticated actor who brought elegance and sympathy to every role he ever played. This first movie in the Corman/Poe series is the strongest and most faithful to the original source material. You will not find the best review for these movies here, though I wholeheartedly endorse them, the best praise these films will receive is from yourself when you find that they make for excellent repeated viewing."