Thursday, October 8, 2009
31 Days of Halloween: House of Usher - Perfectly Poe
Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) is a man beset with horrors. His senses are extremely acute, to the point of pain at loud sounds, bright lights or even seasoned food. He lives in a world of quiet, with music of odd discordant tunes of his own composition. He eats only gruel (shades of Oliver Twist), and keeps only the most necessary candles lit for dim light. He also believes that death will and should come soon for him and his sister, Madeline (Myrna Fahey). Vincent Price dons a different look for the role of Roderick. He has light blonde hair and pale face, his long lean frame dressed in embroidered dressing gowns and slippers.
Madeline does not appear to share Roderick’s infirmities. In fact, as played by Fahey, she looks entirely too buxom and robust to be very believable as a sickly woman who is wasting away, a slight flaw in casting of the film. Madeline somehow manages to have a season in London where she finds a livelier existence. Upon her return home, however, her mental and physical health begin to decline.
In rides a disturbance to the Usher household, Madaline’s fiancée from London, Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon). Philip is understandably horrified as he rides through a desolate countryside and through a murky swamp that surrounds the crumbling castle. He is told by the Usher servant that the house is cracking down the middle, a good symbol of the family’s breakdown of life and sanity. Even after hearing Roderick’s croakings of doom, Philip refuses to believe that Madeline is slowly dying.
Roderick gives Philip a tour of the house’s sinister art, eerie impressionistic paintings of Usher ancestors, evil people all. He reveals that the house was brought brick by brick from England and rebuilt, bringing with it all the evil engendered by the Usher family. That night Philip has a frightening dream about the gruesome stories of Usher ancestors, a very well done sequence that makes the hair stand up on your arms. Unlike any normal man who would run for the hills after experiencing the Usher hospitality, Philip stays, determined to get Madeline away from this house of doom. From that point on, the story takes a horrifying turn that is both gruesome and ghoulish.