Plot: What’s it about?
A curse has been in place over the Usher family, one which states that whenever more than one child is born to a couple, both siblings will end up insane and dead. This seems like a farfetched idea I’m sure, but when Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) ventures to the Usher mansion to claim his bride, he discovers just how real the curse is. As soon he arrives, it is obvious things are not normal, as his wife-to-be Madeline (Myrna Fahey) is not her usual self, but much more reserved and almost out of it, so to speak. But her brother Roderick (Vincent Price) is very much active and for strange reasons, as he seeks to make sure the wedding never takes place. You see, Roderick believes that after so many generations of evil within the Usher bloodline, a curse has been placed upon them and as such, he wishes to end the spread of their bloodlines. Although Philip is dubious at first of Roderick’s claims, the mansion soon erupts into a carnival of blood, death, and of course, unspeakable secrets destined to be revealed…
When you combine Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Price, and Roger Corman, you know it’s going to be a great movie, which this one is. I’ve seen more than a few movies based on the story, but out of them all, I rank this one as my personal favorite. Some of the others are very good and some better in certain respects, but I love this flick and am very pleased to own it on DVD. Vincent Price (Dr. Phibes Rises Again, House on Haunted Hill) seems so perfect for his role, very refined and well mannered, until he needs to show another, darker side. I think his performance shines as the film’s greatest element, but it isn’t lacking much in any other respects, a very impressive adaptation indeed. The budget was pretty limited, but it seems to have been well spent, as the production values are very good, much better than I think most folks expect. I know director Roger Corman is known as a low budget filmmaker, but low budget doesn’t equal schlock, especially with Corman behind the wheel, as he is here. This film is loaded with tension, suspense, and one heck of an eerie atmosphere, excellent work all around here. I give this picture a very high recommendation with a low priced, but very good disc, this is a must see title, if you ask me.
Video: How does it look?
The Fall of the House of Usher is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This looks better than expected, but some flaws still surface in the end. The print has some nicks and debris, but not too much and for a film made in 1960, it looks decent enough. The colors, especially the reds look lush and vivid, but remain within reason, so no bleeds and other errors can be seen. The contrast is even handed throughout, with accurate shadow depth and no visible detail loss. I would love to see this one fully restored, but as it stands, this is still a solid visual treatment.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track is good, but shows some signs of age, though not to the extent I had expected. I heard some very slight hiss at times, but no more than on other films of this age, so no real complaints in the end. From the sinister laughs to the death wails, all the sound effects seem in fine form, as far as the mono option allows, that is. Lex Baxter supplied an excellent musical score for this film also, which sounds very good here, though an isolated option would most have been most welcome, to be sure. The dialogue is also well presented, very sharp and clean, with no volume hiccups to report. This disc also includes subtitles & language tracks in Spanish and French, in case you’ll need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer, as well as an audio commentary track with director Roger Corman. I am always pleased to hear Corman’s comments, as I have a lot of respect for his work over the years, so I loved this session. He discusses various themes found within the picture, some technical tricks used and why, as well as humorous stories he remembered from the production. All in all, a very solid audio commentary session and if you’re a fan of the flick, you won’t want to miss it, that’s for sure.