Vincent Price stars in this classic Roger Corman horror, the first of Corman's eight Poe adaptations. When the last member of the Usher family inadvertently buries his cataleptic sister alive, she rises from the grave to wreak an awful revenge.
Vincent Price brings a theatrical flourish to his role in The Fall of the House of Usher
. He plays Roderick Usher, a brooding nobleman haunted by the dry rot of madness in his family tree. This being an Edgar Allen Poe story, there's a history of family madness and melancholia, a premature burial and a sense of doom hanging over the gloomy, crumbling mansion. Roger Corman sold stingy AIP pictures on the concept by claiming "The house is the monster"--or so goes the oft-told story. True or not, Corman (with the help of his brilliant art director Daniel Haller and legendary cinematographer Floyd Crosby) creates an exaggerated sense of isolation and claustrophobia with the sunless forest and funereal fog that holds the house and its inhabitants prisoner in a land of the dead. It doesn't quite look real (some of the effects are downright phoney, notably the apocalyptic climax), and none of the costars can hold a candle to Price's elegant, haunted performance (often speaking in no more than a stage whisper), but it's a triumph of expressionism on a budget. Shot in rich, vivid colour and CinemaScope, from a literate script by genre master Richard Matheson, this is stylish Gothic horror in a melancholy key. It was such a success that Corman reunited his core group of collaborators for the follow-up The Pit and the Pendulum
the very next year. Thus Corman's "Poe Cycle" was born. --Sean Axmaker