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House of Usher

House of Usher(1960)

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The working titles of this film were Mysterious House of Usher and Haunted House of Usher. The film's presenters and four actors' names precede the main title, which reads "Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher." All other credits appear at the film's conclusion, beginning with portraits of the four leading actors and their character names. After music composer Les Baxter's name, the following credit appears: "Album available on American International Records." Although the film's onscreen title is The Fall of the House of Usher, it was also reviewed and advertised as House of Usher.
       Contemporary reviews remarked on the dissimilarities between the film and the story on which it was based. In Poe's story, "Philip" is not "Madeline's" fianc but "Roderick's" old friend, invited to the house by Roderick. In addition, in the Poe story Philip does not try to escape the mansion, and Roderick is driven to madness after hearing the moans of the buried Madeline.
       The film marked the first time producer-director Roger Corman adapted a story by Poe. He produced seven more by 1965, ending with The Tomb of Ligeia (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Many of Corman's Poe films starred Vincent Price. In his autobiography, Corman stated that The Fall of the House of Usher was shot in fifteen days on a budget of $270,000, $50,000 of which went to Price. That was the highest budget American International had alloted any film up to that time. Corman also noted that the success of the Poe films was due in large part to the creativity and ingenuity of production designer Daniel Haller. Modern sources point out Corman's own ingenuity in shooting the opening sequence, in which Philip rides through a desolate countryside, in the Hollywood Hills the day after a devastating fire. In addition, for the film's climax, Corman arranged to burn an old barn that was about to be demolished in Orange County. The resultant footage was reused in Corman's other Poe films.
       According to Motion Picture Daily, the premiere for The Fall of the House of Usher, held in Palm Springs, CA on June 18, 1960, benefited the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation. The reviews were generally laudatory, with Los Angeles Times referring to Price as "masterful" and Los Angeles Examiner stating that Corman "has done himself proud, both as producer and director." The picture marked the first starring role and last feature film appearance of Myrna Fahey (1933-1973), who appeared frequently on television throughout the 1960s.
       Among the many other versions of Poe's story are the 1928 French film directed by famed Surrealists Jean Epstein and Luis Buuel; a 1982 television feature directed by James L. Conway and starring Martin Landau; and a 2002 version entitled The Fall of the Louse of Usher, directed by Ken Russell and starring Russell and James Johnson.