House of Usher


1h 25m 1960
House of Usher

Brief Synopsis

A young man tries to rescue the woman he loves from her demonic brother.

Film Details

Also Known As
Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, Haunted House of Usher, Mysterious House of Usher
Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Jul 1960
Premiere Information
World premiere in Palm Springs, CA: 18 Jun 1960; Los Angeles opening: 20 Jul 1960
Production Company
Alta Vista Productions
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and American Monthly Review (Sep 1839).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
7,104ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

Early in the 19th century, Philip Winthrop rides from Boston to rural Massachusetts, to visit his fiancée, Madeline Usher, at her family's estate. As he nears his destination, Philip passes through a very stark, barren area until he reaches the decaying, foreboding Usher mansion. Although Bristol, the family's longtime retainer, tells Philip that he cannot admit him, as Madeline is ill and confined to her bed, Philip insists upon talking with Madeline's brother Roderick. After Roderick upbraids Bristol for having permitted Philip to enter, he asks Philip to speak softly, as he is afflicted by a condition that amplifies even minor sounds. Roderick insists that Philip leave and terminate his betrothal to Madeline. Suddenly, Madeline appears and informs her brother that Philip must stay, then returns to her room. Roderick, greatly disturbed that Philip still intends to marry his sister, tells him that the majority of his ancestors have succumbed to madness and that he and Madeline are dying. After Philip accuses Roderick of exaggerating and refuses to leave the house, Bristol shows him to a guest room. As Philip unpacks, the house trembles and vibrates and when he goes downstairs for dinner, a falling chandelier narrowly misses him. That night, Philip creeps into Madeline's room, awakens her and asks her to leave with him in the morning, but she insists she cannot. When Roderick discovers them together, Philip accuses him of keeping Madeline a prisoner, but Roderick insists that it is his love for his sister that makes him protective. Later, after hearing more creaking and clanking sounds, Philip checks Madeline's room and, finding it empty, goes downstairs where he discovers her, lying in a trance-like state. Bristol advises Philip not to wake her and carries her back to her room. In the morning, Bristol agrees to let Philip take Madeline her breakfast, giving him the opportunity again to implore her to leave. Madeline refuses to go with Philip, however, and tells him that she will soon be dead. Madeline, by way of explanation, takes Philip to a crypt in the mansion's basement, where she shows him the coffins of her great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, all victims of madness. Suddenly, her grandmother's coffin falls from its niche and breaks open, revealing a skeleton and causing Madeline to faint. As Philip carries Madeline out, Roderick appears and insists on returning her to her room. Roderick then decides to reveal more of the Usher family's curse to Philip and informs him that long ago the area surrounding the mansion was fertile and abundant until devastated by a plague of evil. Roderick explains that the centuries-old house was brought from England, where many evil people had inhabited it. Philip, convinced that Roderick is mad, goes to Madeline's room and orders her to prepare to leave. As Philip packs, he hears Madeline and Roderick arguing and rushes to her, but finds her dead in her bed. Roderick swears that he never touched his sister and that she has died from strain upon her heart. After a brief ceremony in the family chapel, Roderick insists upon immediately placing Madeline's coffin in the crypt. Later, when Philip goes to bid Bristol farewell, he asks the butler if perhaps his visit may have caused Madeline's death. In trying to reassure Philip, Bristol casually mentions a history of catalepsy in the Usher family, causing Philip suddenly to realize that Madeline may still be alive. He rushes to the crypt and breaks open her padlocked coffin with a battle axe, but Madeline is not inside. Roderick denies having buried Madeline alive, but says that she is now dead and Philip will not find her. Utterly exhausted, Philip falls asleep and dreams of entering the crypt and encountering the ghosts of the Usher family members he has seen in portraits Roderick has painted. Awakened by the thunder and lightning of a massive storm that threatens to destroy the house, Philip is warned by Roderick to leave or perish with him. After hearing a scream from the area of the crypt, Philip runs there and follows a trail of blood through corridors that finally lead back to a room in the house. When he enters, a crazed Madeline, now endowed with a superhuman strength, attacks him and tries to strangle him, then runs away. While the house continues to shake, Philip traces Madeline to Roderick's room where, again, she attempts to choke him to death. The violent wind blows open a window, causing a fire that begins to spread as Madeline attacks Roderick. As the house begins to disintegrate, Bristol drags Philip from the room, but is killed by a falling beam when he returns for Madeline, who is choking her brother. The house is now engulfed in flames and falls in on Roderick and Madeline as Philip runs out and watches the house sink into an abyss.

Film Details

Also Known As
Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, Haunted House of Usher, Mysterious House of Usher
Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Jul 1960
Premiere Information
World premiere in Palm Springs, CA: 18 Jun 1960; Los Angeles opening: 20 Jul 1960
Production Company
Alta Vista Productions
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and American Monthly Review (Sep 1839).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
7,104ft (9 reels)

Articles

House of Usher (1960)


American International Pictures and producer/director Roger Corman had a very productive relationship in the 1950s; the studio would give Corman pre-selected titles and pre-set budgets, and the resulting pictures were released to drive-ins and smaller hardtop theaters in a double bill. Careful advanced planning and selling would mean that a double feature consisting of (for example) Corman's It Conquered the World paired with the non-Corman film The She-Creature (both 1956), each shot in black-and-white on a 10-day schedule, would make a tidy profit once it played through its pre-determined markets and territories.

By 1960, market conditions were changing and Corman suggested to AIP owners James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff that they try making a 15-day picture in color rather than two 10-day pictures in black-and-white. Edgar Allan Poe's gothic horror story The Fall of the House of Usher was chosen as a property; the advantages of such a move are obvious in hindsight - the title would be familiar to anyone who had the story on a reading list in High School English class, and as it was public domain, the story rights cost the studio nothing.

With a larger budget, Corman was able to spend more on talent. For the screenplay he enlisted the established science-fiction and fantasy writer Richard Matheson. Matheson expanded on the Poe story for his feature-length adaptation, most notably adding a romantic angle. In the film, we see Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) approach the desolate and foreboding Usher residence, in order to take away his fiancée, Madeline (Myrna Fahey). After warnings from the family butler Bristol (Harry Ellerbe), Winthrop confronts Madeline's brother, the enigmatic and hyper-sensitive Roderick Usher (Vincent Price). Roderick immediately tells Winthrop to leave the house; that Madeline must not marry or bear children because she suffers from the Usher family curse of slow-mounting insanity. Undeterred, Winthrop continues to try and persuade Madeline to flee, all the while noting the decay of the house itself in the form of tremors, falling chandeliers, and breaking staircase railings. As Winthrop reaches his breaking point, he finds that it is too late; Madeline has died and Roderick plans to entomb her in the family crypt below the house. Roderick has lied though, as Winthrop discovers from the butler that Madeline has suffered in the past from catatonic spells.

AIP co-founder James Nicholson readily approved of the Matheson script, but Sam Arkoff was hesitant. The story, he said, didn't have a monster - something AIP was very accustomed to playing up in the advertising of their horror pictures. Quoted in Vincent Price - A Daughter's Biography by Victoria Price, Arkoff said, "Roger had an answer...'The house is the monster! Can't you see it? It's the house!'...In the middle of shooting, Roger made sure he had covered his bases. He asked Vincent Price to utter a couple of lines that he had written into the script at the last minute - 'The house lives! The house breathes!'"

With a large chunk of his budget Corman wanted to hire an A-list actor for the pivotal role of Roderick Usher, and had only one person in mind: Vincent Price. According to Corman, the actor accounted for $50,000 of the film's final budget of $270,000. Price suggested to Corman that he bleach his hair for the role. As Victoria Price writes, "Indeed, Vincent had an affinity with Poe's characters. He was attracted to the Romantic ethos of these Gothic tales, in which hypersensitive men whose dark heritage combined with their refined sensibilities, doomed them to torment as outsiders. He would later say of House of Usher, 'I loved the white-haired character I was playing because he is the most sensitive of all Poe's heroes.'"

Corman made the most of a modest day-and-a-half rehearsal period for House of Usher. He was an engineering student before becoming a director, and would pre-plan movements of actors and cameras beforehand by drawing lines and angles on set layout sketches. By 1960 Corman had assembled one of the best independent crews in Hollywood, headed by cinematographer Floyd Crosby and production designer Daniel Haller; like Corman, they worked quickly.

The striking opening shots of House of Usher show Mark Damon riding on horseback through the desolate landscape surrounding the Usher mansion; they were captured on film in a wonderfully Cormanesque manner: The day after reading in the Los Angeles Times about a forest fire in the Hollywood Hills, Corman arrived with Damon and a skeleton crew to shoot at the exotic (but very convenient) scorched location. The conflagration which ends House of Usher gets some of its scale from cutaways that Corman shot at a remote California barn which was set to be torn down. The director burned it down instead, and the "stock" fire footage that resulted was also used in other AIP pictures, including The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

House of Usher was the first film Corman shot in CinemaScope. He thought the property was not suited for widescreen, because "...when shooting inside a house, you're not exactly working with what CinemaScope can give you." Nicholson and Arkoff wanted the CinemaScope name on the picture, so Corman did the best he could with the process, and used a wide angle in the establishing interiors "...to give a size to what was, essentially, a not-very-big set."

The macabre Usher family portraits seen throughout the film were painted by a West Coast artist named Burt Schoenberg, who was, according to Corman, "...having something of a vogue in - what would I say - post-beatnik, pre-hippie coffeehouses and art galleries in Hollywood." Many in the cast and crew, including renowned art historian Price, were taken with the artist's work and took home a painting following the shoot.

House of Usher (known by the longer title The Fall of the House of Usher outside of the United States) was the biggest hit AIP had seen up to that date, grossing 2 million dollars during the summer of 1960. Corman, Price, Matheson, and most of the crew reunited the following year for Pit and the Pendulum (1961), kicking off the "Poe cycle" of the early 1960s.

Executive Producers: James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff
Director: Roger Corman
Screenplay: Richard Matheson, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe
Cinematography: Floyd Crosby
Film Editing: Anthony Carras
Production Design: Daniel Haller
Makeup: Fred B. Phillips
Music: Les Baxter
Special Effects: Larry Butler, Pat Dinga, Ray Mercer
Cast: Vincent Price (Roderick Usher), Mark Damon (Philip Winthrop), Myrna Fahey (Madeline Usher), Harry Ellerbe (Bristol), Eleanor LeFaber, Ruth Oklander, Geraldine Paulette (Ghosts).
C-79m.

by John M. Miller
House Of Usher (1960)

House of Usher (1960)

American International Pictures and producer/director Roger Corman had a very productive relationship in the 1950s; the studio would give Corman pre-selected titles and pre-set budgets, and the resulting pictures were released to drive-ins and smaller hardtop theaters in a double bill. Careful advanced planning and selling would mean that a double feature consisting of (for example) Corman's It Conquered the World paired with the non-Corman film The She-Creature (both 1956), each shot in black-and-white on a 10-day schedule, would make a tidy profit once it played through its pre-determined markets and territories. By 1960, market conditions were changing and Corman suggested to AIP owners James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff that they try making a 15-day picture in color rather than two 10-day pictures in black-and-white. Edgar Allan Poe's gothic horror story The Fall of the House of Usher was chosen as a property; the advantages of such a move are obvious in hindsight - the title would be familiar to anyone who had the story on a reading list in High School English class, and as it was public domain, the story rights cost the studio nothing. With a larger budget, Corman was able to spend more on talent. For the screenplay he enlisted the established science-fiction and fantasy writer Richard Matheson. Matheson expanded on the Poe story for his feature-length adaptation, most notably adding a romantic angle. In the film, we see Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) approach the desolate and foreboding Usher residence, in order to take away his fiancée, Madeline (Myrna Fahey). After warnings from the family butler Bristol (Harry Ellerbe), Winthrop confronts Madeline's brother, the enigmatic and hyper-sensitive Roderick Usher (Vincent Price). Roderick immediately tells Winthrop to leave the house; that Madeline must not marry or bear children because she suffers from the Usher family curse of slow-mounting insanity. Undeterred, Winthrop continues to try and persuade Madeline to flee, all the while noting the decay of the house itself in the form of tremors, falling chandeliers, and breaking staircase railings. As Winthrop reaches his breaking point, he finds that it is too late; Madeline has died and Roderick plans to entomb her in the family crypt below the house. Roderick has lied though, as Winthrop discovers from the butler that Madeline has suffered in the past from catatonic spells. AIP co-founder James Nicholson readily approved of the Matheson script, but Sam Arkoff was hesitant. The story, he said, didn't have a monster - something AIP was very accustomed to playing up in the advertising of their horror pictures. Quoted in Vincent Price - A Daughter's Biography by Victoria Price, Arkoff said, "Roger had an answer...'The house is the monster! Can't you see it? It's the house!'...In the middle of shooting, Roger made sure he had covered his bases. He asked Vincent Price to utter a couple of lines that he had written into the script at the last minute - 'The house lives! The house breathes!'" With a large chunk of his budget Corman wanted to hire an A-list actor for the pivotal role of Roderick Usher, and had only one person in mind: Vincent Price. According to Corman, the actor accounted for $50,000 of the film's final budget of $270,000. Price suggested to Corman that he bleach his hair for the role. As Victoria Price writes, "Indeed, Vincent had an affinity with Poe's characters. He was attracted to the Romantic ethos of these Gothic tales, in which hypersensitive men whose dark heritage combined with their refined sensibilities, doomed them to torment as outsiders. He would later say of House of Usher, 'I loved the white-haired character I was playing because he is the most sensitive of all Poe's heroes.'" Corman made the most of a modest day-and-a-half rehearsal period for House of Usher. He was an engineering student before becoming a director, and would pre-plan movements of actors and cameras beforehand by drawing lines and angles on set layout sketches. By 1960 Corman had assembled one of the best independent crews in Hollywood, headed by cinematographer Floyd Crosby and production designer Daniel Haller; like Corman, they worked quickly. The striking opening shots of House of Usher show Mark Damon riding on horseback through the desolate landscape surrounding the Usher mansion; they were captured on film in a wonderfully Cormanesque manner: The day after reading in the Los Angeles Times about a forest fire in the Hollywood Hills, Corman arrived with Damon and a skeleton crew to shoot at the exotic (but very convenient) scorched location. The conflagration which ends House of Usher gets some of its scale from cutaways that Corman shot at a remote California barn which was set to be torn down. The director burned it down instead, and the "stock" fire footage that resulted was also used in other AIP pictures, including The Masque of the Red Death (1964). House of Usher was the first film Corman shot in CinemaScope. He thought the property was not suited for widescreen, because "...when shooting inside a house, you're not exactly working with what CinemaScope can give you." Nicholson and Arkoff wanted the CinemaScope name on the picture, so Corman did the best he could with the process, and used a wide angle in the establishing interiors "...to give a size to what was, essentially, a not-very-big set." The macabre Usher family portraits seen throughout the film were painted by a West Coast artist named Burt Schoenberg, who was, according to Corman, "...having something of a vogue in - what would I say - post-beatnik, pre-hippie coffeehouses and art galleries in Hollywood." Many in the cast and crew, including renowned art historian Price, were taken with the artist's work and took home a painting following the shoot. House of Usher (known by the longer title The Fall of the House of Usher outside of the United States) was the biggest hit AIP had seen up to that date, grossing 2 million dollars during the summer of 1960. Corman, Price, Matheson, and most of the crew reunited the following year for Pit and the Pendulum (1961), kicking off the "Poe cycle" of the early 1960s. Executive Producers: James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff Director: Roger Corman Screenplay: Richard Matheson, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe Cinematography: Floyd Crosby Film Editing: Anthony Carras Production Design: Daniel Haller Makeup: Fred B. Phillips Music: Les Baxter Special Effects: Larry Butler, Pat Dinga, Ray Mercer Cast: Vincent Price (Roderick Usher), Mark Damon (Philip Winthrop), Myrna Fahey (Madeline Usher), Harry Ellerbe (Bristol), Eleanor LeFaber, Ruth Oklander, Geraldine Paulette (Ghosts). C-79m. by John M. Miller

TCM Remembers - Samuel Arkoff


SAMUEL ARKOFF 1918-2001

Producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, who died September 16 at the age of 83, made a dent in film history by co-founding and running the legendary American International Pictures (AIP), a key player in the drive-in and exploitation markets during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Arkoff was born in Iowa on June 12, 1918, served as a military crypographer during World War Two and ended up as an entertainment lawyer. Life changed in 1954 when he and former theatre owner James H. Nicholson founded American Releasing Corporation, a name changed two years later to American International. Their first film was The Fast and the Furious (1954), a road race melodrama starring John Ireland as a fugitive from justice, which cost $75,000 and earned double that amount giving the company a healthy start. The film also kicked off the career of screenwriter Roger Corman who would later become a key B-movie producer and director himself, and provided the title for one of 2001's biggest hits of the summer.

AIP tapped into a previously nonexistant teenage market, the same one fed by rock 'n' roll but not well served by the large Hollywood studios. Arkoff and Nicholson split duties with the colorful, cigar-chomping Arkoff doing the business end and Nicholson handling the creative end (including those unforgettable titles). AIP films included such titles as Attack of the Crab Monsters(1957), I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Black Caesar (1973) and close to 200 others. AIP also imported European and Asian films of commercial potential such as Mario Bava's moody masterworks (Black Sunday, 1960) but also pure schlock like Jess Franco's Attack of the Robots (1966) or the giant monster Gamera series from Japan. These films were usually money makers because of their low costs and built-in market and remain entertaining to this day. AIP also gave a start to then-struggling actors and directors like Robert De Niro (Bloody Mama 1970), Peter Fonda (The Trip 1967), Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha 1972), Jack Nicholson (The Terror (1963), Brian De Palma (Sisters 1973) and Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13 1963). By the 1970s the major studios had moved into the market and AIP itself was making more expensive films like The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) and The Amityville Horror (1979). That combination put AIP in financial trouble; they were sold to Filmways in 1979. Arkoff founded his own Arkoff International Pictures but it made few films; Larry Cohen's Q (1982) was one of the few notable titles.

By Lang Thompson

PAULINE KAEL 1919-2001

Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady.

Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton.

The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay.

In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998).

By Lang Thompson

Troy Donahue 1936-2001

Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990).

By Lang Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001

Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide.

By Lang Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001

Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on.

Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him.

From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar¿.

Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail.

Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together.

From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981).

Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival.

Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent.

By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Samuel Arkoff

SAMUEL ARKOFF 1918-2001 Producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, who died September 16 at the age of 83, made a dent in film history by co-founding and running the legendary American International Pictures (AIP), a key player in the drive-in and exploitation markets during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Arkoff was born in Iowa on June 12, 1918, served as a military crypographer during World War Two and ended up as an entertainment lawyer. Life changed in 1954 when he and former theatre owner James H. Nicholson founded American Releasing Corporation, a name changed two years later to American International. Their first film was The Fast and the Furious (1954), a road race melodrama starring John Ireland as a fugitive from justice, which cost $75,000 and earned double that amount giving the company a healthy start. The film also kicked off the career of screenwriter Roger Corman who would later become a key B-movie producer and director himself, and provided the title for one of 2001's biggest hits of the summer. AIP tapped into a previously nonexistant teenage market, the same one fed by rock 'n' roll but not well served by the large Hollywood studios. Arkoff and Nicholson split duties with the colorful, cigar-chomping Arkoff doing the business end and Nicholson handling the creative end (including those unforgettable titles). AIP films included such titles as Attack of the Crab Monsters(1957), I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Black Caesar (1973) and close to 200 others. AIP also imported European and Asian films of commercial potential such as Mario Bava's moody masterworks (Black Sunday, 1960) but also pure schlock like Jess Franco's Attack of the Robots (1966) or the giant monster Gamera series from Japan. These films were usually money makers because of their low costs and built-in market and remain entertaining to this day. AIP also gave a start to then-struggling actors and directors like Robert De Niro (Bloody Mama 1970), Peter Fonda (The Trip 1967), Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha 1972), Jack Nicholson (The Terror (1963), Brian De Palma (Sisters 1973) and Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13 1963). By the 1970s the major studios had moved into the market and AIP itself was making more expensive films like The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) and The Amityville Horror (1979). That combination put AIP in financial trouble; they were sold to Filmways in 1979. Arkoff founded his own Arkoff International Pictures but it made few films; Larry Cohen's Q (1982) was one of the few notable titles. By Lang Thompson PAULINE KAEL 1919-2001 Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady. Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton. The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay. In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998). By Lang Thompson Troy Donahue 1936-2001 Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990). By Lang Thompson TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001 Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide. By Lang Thompson TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001 Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on. Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him. From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar¿. Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail. Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together. From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981). Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival. Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent. By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

I suggest you leave, Mr. Winthrop. No? Then perish with us.
- Roderick Usher
You have murdered your sister, Mr. Usher, and I intend to see that you hang for it.
- Philip Winthrop
Arrange it quickly then. The old house crumbles.
- Roderick Usher
See to the crypt, will you?
- Roderick Usher

Trivia

Roger Corman actually filmed a real house being burnt for the closing scenes. He'd heard about it on the radio and quickly gathered his crew to film it.

This film marked a major change in the career of Roger Corman. Instead of producing two low budget black and white films for release as a double feature, American International agreed that he could use the budget to produce one higher budget movie, in Cinemascope and color, instead.

Some of the footage from the fire sequence would be reused in later films. Roger Corman never expected the audience to recognize this footage.

The stark landscape that Mark Damon rides through was the site of a forest fire in the Hollywood Hills. Roger Corman had heard of the fire on the radio and went to the location the next day with his crew to do the shots of Damon.

Roger Corman learned that there was an old barn in Orange Country that was about to be demolished. He was able to strike a deal that would allow him to burn the barn at night and film it. The resulting footage was so good that it was used not only in the climax of this film but in later "Poe" films as well.

Notes

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" fiancé 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 Buñuel; 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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 1981

Released in United States October 1997

Released in United States Summer July 1960

The first of Corman's Poe-inspired films.

CinemaScope

Released in United States April 1981 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition ("Scared to Death": Horror Movie Marathon) April 2-23, 1981.)

Released in United States Summer July 1960

Released in United States October 1997 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Special Presentation-All Night Halloween Movie Marathon) October 23-30, 1997.)