by Brody Rossiter
For those familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling literary masterworks, The Fall of The House of Usher is a recognisably sinister and supernatural affair from the tortured author. The narrative draws upon one of mankind’s most tangible fears – the frailty and fragility of the human mind and body. Exploitation maestro Roger Corman’s 1960 adaptation of the short story immediately captures Poe’s sense of despair and madness though its introduction of Roderick (Vincent Price), the tortured and agoraphobic master of The House of Usher.
Roderick cites a curse upon the bloodline of the Ushers for the malaise which supposedly conflicts him and his sister Madeline; a curse personified in the crumbling foundations of the house in which generations worth of evil has been committed by his forefathers. When Philip, Madeline’s fiancé, arrives at the stately home surrounded by barren land and heavy mist, he experiences first-hand the sickness which stalks the once decadent home, and must race to save his love from both its influence and her brother’s nihilistic wish to end the name of Usher for good.
To this day The Fall of The House of Usher remains highly influential, primarily due to its unrelenting eerie tone and Vincent Price’s arresting performance. In 2006 the film was among twenty-five pictures selected for preservation within the Library of Congress by the national film registry. Though younger generations may not be aware of Corman as a director and producer – despite most recently acting as producer for bargain bin b-movie epic, Sharktopus – his impact and influence in the roles throughout the fifties and sixties has most likely shaped countless horror histories to some degree. Clocking in at just over an hour, the main feature is a succinct study of inherited torment and isolation, and although budget limitations restricted Corman’s overall vision, the film offers a deserved introduction to two masters of the macabre.