The Fall of the House of Usher begins with Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) turning at the abode wanting to visit his fiancee Madeline (Myrna Fahey), only to be disuaded by butler Bristol (Harry Ellerbe) because she’s apparently not feeling too well, and neither is her brother Roderick (Vincent Price with a shock of blonde hair and camping it up like there’s no tomorrow). What exactly is wrong with them? Well, don’t ask Roderick, as he ends up over-egging the pudding, using 20 words when one will do.
Creepy things start happening around the house, not least when Bristol mysteriously disappears early on after letting Philip in, so no wonder that wants to take his better half away from there. When Bristol does make another appearance, he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about the fact the house has a few foundation issues and is on the verge of collapsing. If Roderick has had a dodgy builder in, I can imagine Philip calling up Dominic Littlewood.
So, what is the mystery going on at the House of Usher? Well, it’s not a surprise appearance from the late 90s light R&B male singer who goes by the same name.
That said, even though the film’s a relatively short 79 minutes, it still drags quite often. A good 20 minutes could easily have been chopped out, but not gorily (if that’s a word).
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in Cinemascope, which has a distinct look and is a film process hardly used any more, in favour of the dull and lifeless ‘Super 35’, where films are practically shot in 16:9 and the 2.35:1 centre area is used cinematically. Super 35 is cheap and nasty, whereas Cinemascope helps bring out this film’s lush colours and fantastic detail. There is the occasional grainy clip, however, but nothing to be concerned about and any minor defects evoke the period of the film.
The sound is in 2.0 LPCM and the stereo is fine, but there’s nothing to shout about.
The extras on this disc are as follows – most of which are in HD, too. As with a lot of Arrow’s releases of late, no extras are chaptered:
- Joe Dante (26:47): The man talks about how much Roger Corman has influenced him in his career and his love for the director’s films.
- Jonathan Rigby (32:58): The author of English Gothic & American Gothic (not the US TV series for the latter, but both are books about horror movies) talks about movie versions of Poe’s tales. I didn’t really get into the first two extras, unlike the next one.
- Vincent Price (11:26): An interview recorded in 1986 showing that, at the age of 75, he’s still so full of life, reminiscing about the films he makes and how, when working with the likes of Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, they’d all be sat about discussing the forthcoming day’s filming, “How can we scare them today!”
He also mentions how he was asked to play Dracula, but couldn’t because he kept swallowing the teeth!
Note that it was produced for French TV and the French subtitles are encoded into the print. Arrow apologise for these subtitles, but I don’t worry about those at all because this is an interview with Vincent Price!! And it’s the best extra on this disc, especially given how he’s so open and honest about his time on previous films and those with Roger Corman.
- Fragments of the House of Usher (10:47): Told in voiceover, David Cairns goes into detail about intricate details about the film which you might not have spotted, as well as giving opinion on it in general.
He describes the film as “A stiflingly interior study of madness” and this is quite an enjoyable extra.
- Trailer (2:30): Presented in 2.35:1, it says “You will always remember… because you are unable to forget…” (about this film). Well, I can easily forget it.
Apparently, there’s also a collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Tim Lucas and an extract from Vincent Price’s long out of print autobiography, illustrated with original archive stills and posters, but I just received a check disc with the film and extras so I haven’t seen the full package, so to speak.
The menu features clips from the film playing with the theme playing in the background.
There are subtitles in English, but for this Special Edition the chaptering is anything BUT special with the usual 12 that so many films get these days. Very lazy.
Running time: 79 minutes
Released: August 26th 2013
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: LPCM Audio 2.0
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Roger Corman
Producers: Roger Corman
Screenplay: Richard Matheson (based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe)
Music: Les Baxter
Roderick Usher: Vincent Price
Philip Winthrop: Mark Damon
Madeline Usher: Myrna Fahey
Bristol: Harry Ellerbe
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.