DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

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)

"Chilling."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Though 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.

It 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.

Jonathan (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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