Movie Review: House of Usher (1960)

House of Usher (1960)

So that’s it, huh? Halloween is officially over. You might be like me, thinking of all the props you didn’t finish this year or how you ran out of candy a lot earlier than you expected. Well however your Halloween turned out, its nice to reflect on the successes and failures and toast the holiday off just right by enjoying a good horror movie the day after. In my goal to watch more classic films I decided on watching House of Usher (1960) starring Vincent Price. This film is considered one of his better ones. So kick off your shoes, pour some left over apple cider and enjoy my movie review.

House of Usher starred Vincent Price and Mark Damon
House of Usher starred Vincent Price and Mark Damon

The name is a little confusing because Edgar Allan Poe’s tale is called The Fall of the House of Usher. The movie is often just billed as House of Usher. It was the first of eight Edgar Allan Poe themed film collaborations by director Roger Corman and actor Vincent Price and is considered one of the best.

Vincent Price as Roderick Usher
Vincent Price as Roderick Usher

Vincent Price once again delivers an excellent performance. He stars as Roderick Usher, eldest survivor of the doomed Usher family. He lives with his sister in an old (and I mean falling apart at the seams) old mansion.

Let’s talk about the Usher mansion for a second. What was Mark Damon’s character Philip Winthrop thinking when he rode up to visit this place. Obviously he wasn’t or he’d have noticed that the forest he rides through is completely dead. The ground looks scorched and the trees are completely bare. When he gets to the house he fails to recognize the how every bit of it is about to fall apart. As he’s walking through rooms in the mansion we see all kinds of thick cobwebs or spider webs hanging everywhere. Obviously the family butler doesn’t have time to clean much around this place.

Philip is madly in love with Madeline Usher but doesn’t realize what a pain in the a** her brother Roderick Usher is going to be until he meets him. Vincent Price has platinum blonde hair which totally threw me off guard. He is so convincingly mad and troubled, telling Philip if he knows what’s good for him he’d skedaddle. But lovesick Philip will do no such thing and insists on marrying Madeline.

Roderick tries warning Philip over and over again but the dude is persistent! The house is literally trying to kill him but he seems undeterred. After nearly getting squashed by a falling chandelier, almost falling off a second story banister, and almost getting burned by a scolding pot of gruel (eww what’s gruel), Philip continues his pursuit of dear Madeline.

The eerie painting of Captain Usher
The eerie painting of Captain Usher.

Roderick takes Philip aside to introduce him to the lovely family portraits up on the wall. Say hello to scary old Captain Usher, a slave trader and murderer. Just look at those lifeless red eyes. I can’t imagine the captain paying for this portrait. I imagine he turned to the artist and said “Thanks, you’ve captured the evil in me just perfectly.” The rest of the family portraits are just as creepy and the characters just as evil. Roderick explains that the sins of the family is why they have been cursed and will die soon with the house.

Philip really has the hots for Madeline because he ignores the warnings and vows to take her with him to Boston in the morning. However Roderick has other plans for her. He tricks Philip telling him she has died and entombs her in a coffin. Philip goes bonkers when he finds out she was buried alive and might still be alive.

Mourning over the not so dead Madeline Usher
Mourning over the not so dead Madeline Usher

Much to Philip’s horror his rescue attempts are for nothing because she has become some vampire like creature. Well at least she looks like a vampire. I think what really happened is she went insane from being buried alive. She attacks her brother almost strangling him to death. Suddenly a fiery inferno envelopes the entire mansion and it consumes both Ushers and the poor innocent butler. (Maybe his punishment for not cleaning all those cobwebs).

The fiery fall of the House of Usher
The fiery fall of the House of Usher.

Philip is the only survivor. I think he should call it a day and get a new girlfriend. What do you think?

Although it might seem a bit dated to some viewers this film was added to the National Film Registry as a culturally significant work of cinema. I really enjoyed it because I love Vincent Price’s acting skills and I also love movies that bring back the nostalgia of movies I used to watch during Octobers back in the 80’s. It’s a fun film with lots of creepy candelabras and gothic set design. The acting is pretty good and of course its based on the classic tale by Edgar Allan Poe. Two thumbs up!

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