|THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (director: Ivan Barnett; screenwriters: from an Edgar Allan Poe story/Dorothy Catt/Kenneth Thompson; cinematographer: Ivan Barnett; editor: ; music: W.L. Trytel; cast: Gwen Watford (Lady Usher), Kay Tendeter (Lord Roderick Usher), Irving Steen (Jonathan), Vernon Charles (Dr. Cordwall), Connie Goodwin (Louise), Gavin Lee (The Butler), Keith Lorraine (George), Lucy Pavey (The Hag), Tony Powell-Bristow (Richard), Robert Wolard (Greville); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ivan Barnett; G.I. B.; 1949-UK)|
by Dennis Schwartz
a crudely produced low-budget version of the
signature Edgar Allan Poe story about madness and
far from the best version, this rarely seen one is
nevertheless chilling. It creates an eerie
atmosphere. It's best served as a curio on Old Dark
House scare pictures. Brit filmmaker Ivan Barnett
("Robbery With Violence") directs, produces and
photographs, while Dorothy Catt and Kenneth
Thompson author the script.
opens with a bunch of upper-class seniors dressed in
suits and ties gabbing inside the drawing room of a
gentlemen's club about scary tales, when one of the
elderly gentleman starts reading Poe's story about The
Fall of the House of Usher. What follows doesn't seem
to be part of the Poe story, that involves an old hag
(Lucy Pavey) and a severed head. At the half-way point
the movie veers back to the faithful story version.
(Irving Steen) is a young man visiting the
enigmatic cursed estate of his old friend, the
Englishman Sir Roderick Usher (Kay
Tendeter). The innocent lad is told by the butler (Gavin
Lee) that the place was cursed by an ancestor
and that the family mausoleum
serves as a tomb of secrets. The dark film depicts
how Roderick is driven to the brink of madness by
suffering as his senses become acutely painful.
Meanwhile his frail sister, Madeleine
(Gwen Watford), is consumed by the curse
into a nearly catatonic state. That evening
Roderick spills the beans on
the old Usher family curse by blurting out: "any
time there has been more than one Usher child,
all of the siblings have gone insane and died
horrible deaths." By the end, the viewer
gets a full look at the curse in action.
It might not be better produced than the arty Epsteins's 1928 silent version or be more stylish than the 1960 Price/Corman version, or be better than any of the other Poe knock-offs, but it caught my attention for the odd way it was filmed and I found it gripping.
REVIEWED ON 1/29/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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