The Fall of the House of Usher (1982)

Article 3539 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-29-2011
Posting Date: 4-23-2011
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Martin Landau, Charlene Tilton, Ray Walston
Country: USA
What it is: Classics Illustrated Poe adaptation

An architect brings his wife to the house of childhood friend Roderick Usher, where he is asked to repair a crack in the foundation of the house. However, the house is under an evil curse, and soon they’re all in danger…

A few minutes into this movie the wagon carrying the architect and his wife has a mishap, and they are forced to go to a local inn to ask for a ride to the house of Usher, and the minute they walked into the inn, I knew they were walking into one of the hoariest old horror cliches of them all. This was my first clue that this adaptation wasn’t going to do Edgar Allan Poe’s story any justice. However, I’m glad I watched it, as it’s encouraging me to rethink my views on the Roger Corman Poe adaptations of the sixties; I was a little harsh on them when I covered them. One thing I realized while watching this movie was that Poe wasn’t just a horror story writer; he was also a poet, and that feel carries through to his prose work. Whatever flaws I found in Corman’s Poe movies, I began to realize that they did indeed capture some of the poetry of Poe, and for that they are to be commended. This movie, with its thuddingly literal dialogue and its trotting out of horror movie cliches (the house’s evil secret, the fact that Madeleine’s illness also causes her to try to assault people with medieval weapons, etc) is so bereft of poetry that it’s painful. The cast tries their best, but the script is against them at every turn, and this may be the worst adaptation of this Poe story I’ve seen.


1 Comment

  1. I agree with your take on Corman’s House of Usher. Poe’s a challenging author to bring to life. Visually, there’s usually a lot going on in Poe’s tales that translate pretty well into the screen, but his narratives are often so thin that filmmakers can do just about anything with the plot, and still feel that they’re giving us Poe.

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