Roger Corman’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1960)

Back in 1960, American International Pictures took a gamble. Known for making low-budget black and white features to use in double bills, the company decided to make a larger budgeted colour film when they feared the market for the former was declining. The result was The Fall of the House of Usher (also known as the truncated House of Usher), scripted by Richard Matheson and the first in what would become a series of eight films that director Roger Corman would helm based on the work of author Edgar Allan Poe. Thanks to the lovely folk at Arrow, the film received its UK Blu-ray debut last month. And boy is it pretty.

thefallofthehouseofusher

Usher tells the tale of a young Philip Winthrop (a slightly wooden Mark Damon) who travels to the desolate Usher mansion to visit his fiance Madeline Usher (a beautiful and eerie Myrna Fahey). There he meets Madeline’s brother Roderick (Vincent Price), who is opposed to idea of their union, believing that the Usher bloodline is cursed by some madness that will only continue if Madeline and Philip get married. Desperate to take her away from her brother, Philip manages to persuade Madeline to leave with him, but will Roderick, or the Usher mansion itself, let them?

tumblr_mmh0a5VIpo1rg984eo1_500

The film is a great watch, a slow burning tale of madness focusing of psychological decline and the influence of environments. The star is, of course, Vincent Price but the mansion itself gives its human cast a run for their money. Price might come across as a little camp in his portrayal but when faced with the force of the house’s presence, it’s a perfect fit. Thanks to the transfer that Arrow have released (taken from a restoration done by MGM), the mansions madness has never felt more real or looked so stunning. The colours are rich and, at times, sickly, the fog in the desolate swap that surrounds the property is more uninviting and foreboding and the large crack in the mansion’s wall casts a greater shadow over the players than ever before. Simply put, it brings the house back to life, cementing it as the real villain of the picture. One even had to remind themselves that Corman made the film on a $300,000 budget; the film here looks more lavish than any version I have watched previously, a testament to Corman’s, now well-known, ability to deliver well crafted films within monetary constraints.

Vincent Price in House of Usher, 1960.

If the quality and beauty of the films transfer aren’t enough to make you part with your cash, then the extras certainly should. All are worthy of their long running time; in-depth analysis and anecdotal history of various departments and the film’s production proving very informative. There are two brilliant interviews, one with director Joe Dante and one with horror expert Jonathan Rigby, which provide the most insight (covering everything from novel to film comparison, costume, set design, production history, score) and are well worth buying the release for. Also included is a great video essay exploring the film’s relationship to Poe’s original short story and a nice little archival interview with Price which shows him to be friendly, engaging, funny and polite. An audio commentary by Corman and collector’s booklet provide the standard extras that audiences expect from Arrow releases.

I’ve seen some who have argued that it’s not the most deserving of the Poe/Corman cycle to be released first but its a wonderful start, and a most deserving way to spend your cash and update your Blu-ray collection.

Advertisements

Ashtray Dirt 6(66)

Up first is the new trailer for Israeli release Big Bad Wolves, which was announced last week as the closing film for this years Film4 Frightfest festival. Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papusahdo, the revenge-thriller looks intriguing, brutal and brilliantly shot and will no doubt be a hit at the festival in August…

Arrow have announced their latest limited edition steelbook release, Lucio Fulci’s classic The Beyond, which is exclusive to Zavvi and available to pre-oder now…

Another psychedelic trailer has dropped for Ben Wheatley’s new picture A Field In England. The film is released across all platforms next Friday, July 5th…

Director David Lynch is reportedly collaborating with Trent Reznor on the next Nine Inch Nails release, Come Back Haunted. Lynch will apparently direct the music video for the new single, the first time the pair have worked together since the soundtrack to Lost Highway

RIP-James-Gandolfini-1961-2013

Actor James Gandolfini sadly passed away this week from a suspected heart attack. The star who was most notable for his lead role in television series The Sopranos, also played a string of supporting characters in films as diverse as True Romance, Zero Dark Thirty, Where The Wild Things Are and The Man Who Wasn’t There…

Birmingham’s Shock and Gore festival have announced their line up for this summers series of events. Running from the 19th to the 15th July, events include screenings of films both new and old from an Evil Dead double bill to recent offering John Dies At The End. The full lineup can be found on the website

More new pictures are emerging from the set of the new Godzilla remake. An underground bunker and a giant crater tease the presence of the titular creature in Gareth Edwards feature slated for release next year…

godzilla-goes-green

_1370547546

Second Sight have revealed the sleeve artwork for their next Blu-ray release, Possession, which is released on July 29th…

possession_STDBluray_3D_hiRES2

MGM have released an official press release this week confirming many of the rumours surrounding the new Poltergeist remake. The film will be directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), produced by Sam Raimi and Bob Tapert and will be adapted from a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful). According to the press release, the plot will revolve around ‘a family struggling to make ends meet relocates to an outdated suburban home and is confronted by an angry spirit who kidnaps their youngest daughter and challenges them to band together to rescue her from the clutches of evil’

A set of new images have been released for the next James Wan feature The Conjuring, a creepy tale of paranormal investigators helping out a family living in a haunted house…

THE CONJURING

IMG_0278.dng

THE CONJURING

IMG_0478.dng

Lastly, author and screenwriter Richard Matheson passed away this week aged 87. Prolific in the horror and science-fiction genres, Matheson wrote the novels I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes and Hell House, the screenplays for The Devil Rides Out, The Legend of Hell House and The Incredible Shrinking Man and numerous teleplays…