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First of a classic series,
This review is from: The Fall Of The House Of Usher [DVD] (DVD)
This was the first of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations and his first collaboration with Vincent Price, but there is no hesitancy or sense of searching in the movie. The style is fully formed, in the blighted forest awash with dry ice, the gothic décor, the inventive use of colour filters, the acting style. Little wonder that the Price/Corman/Poe collaboration lasted a further six movies.
This is a very cheap movie to make - cast of four, one set - but there is little sense of limitation as a result; only the final conflagration looks a bit wobbly. Most importantly, Price's style, developed in 50s horror films from "House of Wax" onwards, slots in perfectly with its blend of sinister and high camp, as arch as his eyebrows.
It's Price's slow deliberate delivery which dictates the pace of the film. No other star is as quietly spoken - both the other characters and the audience have to lean forward and strain to catch what he says. He also has a kind of stillness which, combined with his great height, contributes to his authority. At the same time, Price isn't remotely scary. This is dilettante terror; you can see the art collector and the gourmet cook behind the actor. We are purely into an exercise in high style, the visual equivalent of Poe's baroque prose, and certainly no worse, and no less entertaining for that.
Thematically "Usher" is close to "The Premature Burial", but with additional overtones of hereditary disease and mental illness. The spectre of syphilis is not far away, as well as Poe's own alcoholism.
"The House of Usher" is a slow burn for the first forty minutes, but the second half goes at a great lick, and is vintage Corman.