From Lucio Fulci 80’s Giallo The Black Cat up to John Cusack playing the author himself in 2012 The Raven Edgar Allan Poe’s legend and stories of ghosts, ghouls murder and mayhem have been adapted for film and television for many, many years.
The most famous set of movies to be made of Poe’s work however where the early 60’s cycle which combined the authors most famous works with producer and director Roger Corman and legendary actor Vincent Price. This partnership saw 8 movies made between 1960 to 1965 the first and probably most famous being The Fall of the House of Usher.
Now available on Blu-Ray packed with extras thanks to Arrow Video this menacing and macabre tale of a family line in its final faze before dying out still manages to make a great ghastly story and a terrific film.
Desperate to see his betrothed Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) travels to the desolate and semi-derelict family home of the Usher’s to find out what has happened to his beloved.
Once at the disintegrating mansion he meets with Madeline’s brother Roderick (played by Price) who is set against Philips intentions to take her away. Begging and pleading him to leave the siblings alone in the house to meet with whatever dark fate Roderick seems to believe they deserve with their servant Bristol (Harry Ellerbe) Philip refuses to go taking a room in the house and planning to make his escape with his finance.
But fate and Roderick have other ideas and soon Philip finds himself plunged into the infected and insane world of the Usher’s as the evil dealing of the families ancestors are laid before him and the terrible dark destiny of the remaining lineage begins to emerge.
A twisted tale what jumps out first and foremost is Poe’s excellent story adapted into a cracking screenplay by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson. Full of mournful monologues and morose musings delivered pitch perfectly by Vincent Price the theatrical nature of the film which contains only four characters gives it a gravitas and grounding from which the rest of the film firmly stands on even if everything around the characters is slowly crumbling.
Taking in murder, disease, madness and sibling obsession there is also a strong supernatural element to the movie but what works so well is the fantastical element of the story as we are never sure if the Usher’s are indeed cursed or if it is simply Roderick who is insane and imagining it all.
The film also looks great for the period it was made and even better in the High Definition transfer and the sets are excellent showing the death and decay that surrounds the family with the strange psychedelic portraits of the long dead Usher’s especially evocative.
Packed with plenty of gothic imagery and great performances from all the cast it is no wonder The Fall of the House of Usher spurned Corman to make so many other Edgar Allan adaptations with Price and thanks to this new release we can all enjoy this perfect piece of Poe in the peace and privacy of our own homes.