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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Forgotten Horror Gems Vol. 4 - House of Usher

Okay, I already know there are some of you who will say that this isn't really "forgotten" and you'd be right.  At the same time, it is a movie that I'd somehow neglected to see.  For those of you who, like me, have never bothered checking out Roger Corman's Poe adaptations, you may be surprised with what you find here.

Corman is a notoriously frugal producer/director, preferring to work on low budget films that are turned very quickly.  House of Usher is no different, being shot in a total of 15 days. However, he doesn't produce dreck.  He understands what makes a good film. 

House of Usher marks a series of films by Corman where he increased his budgets significantly (for him) and focused on making some quality adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe's works. His budget for this film was around $300,000 and he used the money wisely.  He hired Richard Matheson to write the adaptation and Vincent Price to star as Roderick Usher.  From the very first scene, you can tell from the colors alone that Corman is swinging for respectability here and it paid off.  The movie ultimately grossed 1.4 million.

House of Usher tells the story of a young man named Phillip who travels from Boston to the ancestral home of his fiance, Madeline.  She left Boston to return home and he had heard nothing from her since.  Upon arriving, he finds that Roderick, her brother, is keeping her in the castle as she seems to have a preoccupation with death and dying.  Roderick himself is not exactly healthy and as the last two members of the cursed Usher family line, he sees it as his duty to make sure that Madeline never marries. 

Obviously, this complicates things.

From the beginning, the whole film is dream like and somewhat quiet.  This prompted the first comments from the girls.

"I'm surprised you're still awake!" - Karen

"He may not be for long!" - Lilith

That last line was yelled as Lil headed upstairs.  She decided to sit this one out.  

As Vincent Price is introduced we find that he's overly sensitive to sound and light.

"What a drama queen!" Karen exclaimed

Later, when he picks up a lute, I figured out that Karen had lost interest in actually watching the film.  She was at the table making a puzzle and only half listening to things.

"Whoever is playing that instrument, I feel like I could do better" - Karen

That just left me to finish it on my own.  The truth is, it's a pretty good movie but it's not terribly exciting.  There's more drama here than most horror films and while there are some psychologically disturbing moments, particularly in the third act, it's not the usual monster and mayhem fare we tend to watch on a Friday night.

Still, I can't help but recommend it.  I've only seen one other Corman adaptation of Poe so there will likely be more on the horizon.

One interesting/funny aside about Vincent Price.  A few years ago, I attended the Monsterpalooza trade show and wore a Famous Monsters of Filmland shirt.  The shirt is full of caricatures of horror icons and as I passed one booth, a woman reached out and said, "I bet my father is on there!"

It was Vincent Price's daughter and I turned toward her and stood there while she looked all over my shirt in vain.  It turns out that whoever the artist was must not have been a fan.  Both of us were a little embarrassed. 

Next week we'll trash the place up some and get away from this gothic stuff.  I'm thinking something from the 1980's.

See you then!

1 comment:

Lisanne Harrington said...

I actually like this movie quite a bit. I son't know much about Corman, but I do know I like his films. Yes, this one is not his usual fare, but a decent watch nevertheless. Just need to go into it knowing it's more psychological than gory.

Can't wait to see what you come up with next time!