House of Usher

(I was considering a bad punning title, but I’ve decided to spare you, just this once)

The EIFF’s Roger Corman retrospective kicked off with The Fall of the House of Usher, the first of his splendid Poe adaptations. It’s gloriously gothic stuff, in fabulous Color (not technically Technicolor, as that’s a trademark – the titles proudly announce that it’s in ‘Cinemascope and Color’). Also screened with French subtitles, because the best print they could find was French – here’s hoping it gets a digital restoration soon (unnecessary subtitles are surprisingly distracting, even when in a language you don’t understand :)

Fall of the House of Usher poster

It’s ages since I’ve read Poe, so I can’t remember how closely it sticks to the story (probably more than The Raven does, but that’s not saying much). Either way, it doesn’t really matter – Corman’s Poe films are a thing unto themselves, and I’m so happy to see them on the big screen. Of course, the slightly staid Filmhouse isn’t quite the right setting – the Cameo would be closer to the fleapit vibe you’d really want. (Not that it’s a fleapit – I’m not starting anything – it’s my favourite of all the cinemas involved in the fest)

The film’s joy, the reason it works at all, is Vincent Price as Roderick Usher. That voice, as much as anything, and the perfect balance of lugubrious camp (it’s not camp, exactly – more like an awareness of the absurdity and a willingness to commit to the film regardless) and menace he brings to the film.

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