The Fall of the House of Usher Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Matheson
1960, Region B2, 85 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 25th August 2013
Vincent Price as Roderick Usher
Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop
Myrna Fahey as Madeline Usher
Harry Ellerbe as Bristol
A bona fide horror classic from the mighty Edgar Allan Poe and the iconic Vincent Price. Breathe easy folks, the R&B crapster of the same name is nowhere to be seen.
Hunky young Philip Winthrop, bedecked in his pastel blue suit and jet black hair, arrives at the Usher mansion in search of his loved one, Madeline. There he finds the sinister Roderick Usher (Mister Price), looking similarly dapper in his long red velvet jacket. Poor Roderick is suffering from an intense malady, and sister Madeline is catatonic. As he sticks around, Philip learns the secret behind the siblings' illness, while also trying to be as diplomatic about it as he can. There's no easy way to suggest that someone might be a bit of a hypochondriac. Well, so much velvet can't be good for a man's temperament.
The first in Roger Corman's highly influential cycle of Edgar Allan Poe films, The Fall of the House of Usher is an excellent introduction to for the uninitiated. It has an excellent sense of style, colour and design, a wonderful central performance from Vincent Price, and a great story bolstering the whole thing together. The deep, rich colour is at odds with the dark Gothicism of Poe's writing (one hardly imagines a Poe protagonist cheerfully stomping about like a bright blue Eddie Munster) but Corman's vision is no less valid. In a camp, silly, inappropriate kind of way, it's just as iconic as Poe's story. Maybe even more so, since people don't read nearly enough these days.
It's made even creepier by virtue of the fact that it's essentially a film about a man being cockblocked by his girlfriend's weird brother. We've all been there. It makes Philip an easy man to root for, with Roderick doing his best to get rid of him and stop him from making moves on his sister. There's big brother protectiveness, and then there's Vincent Price levels of creepiness.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a lot of fun. Fans of older, camper horror films should have a ball with it. It sees all involved at perhaps their best (although you may prefer Witchfinder General or House of Wax Price) in a very colourful, very silly manner. Never mind its fall, the house of Usher is in great shape.
Video and Audio:
The film is presented with a High Definition 1080p Blu-ray upgrade. Thankfully, the film has aged very well indeed, and benefits wonderfully from the lovely sharp new look. It sounds a treat too.
As per the Arrow Video modus operandi, the Blu-ray comes loaded full of special features. An audio commentary with producer and director Roger Corman is available, as is an interview with director and Corman apprentice Joe Dante (Gremlins) and an archive interview with Price himself. Film historian Jonathan Rigby delivers an interesting video essay on the film's history, and Fragments of the House of Usher is a celebration of the House of Usher. A bit like Cribs. Usher still isn't in it, though.