The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

fall of the house of usher poster 1960 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Classic horror adaptation of a classic story

Different acting and storytelling than some might expect

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Fall of the House of Usher

Studio:   Alta Vista Productions

Genre(s):   Horror

Release Date(s):   June 18, 1960

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

fall of the house of usher house

It is a dark and stormy night…

Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) has come to the House of Usher for a purpose.  He intends to ask Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) to be permitted to marry his sister Madeline (Myrna Fahey).  Arriving at the home Roderick and Madeline, Philip finds the house and land in a strange state of decay that is not only affecting Madeline but her brother as well.  Roderick refuses to allow Madeline to leave and tells Philip that Madeline is dying.  Philip is going to leave with Madeline with or without Roderick’s permission…but something is dark in the House of Usher.

fall of the house of usher vincent price mark damon myrna fahey

We know how to party!!!

Directed by Roger Corman, The Fall of the House of Usher (sometimes just called House of Usher) is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 story.  The film was the first in Castle’s series of eight “adaptations” (rather namesakes) of Poe’s work.  The film was given a larger budget than most American International Pictures and was well received by critics.  The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 2005.

Classic horror is tricky.  Some people like it, and others don’t like it because it doesn’t “scare” you in the sense of a slasher pic where the villain jumps up at the last minute to kill the victim.  The Fall of the House of Usher is a classic horror movie, and has a growing sense of terror that if you were in the situation, it could be worse than a slasher.

fall of the house of usher crazy eyes myrna fahey

Scream if you like gothic horror!!!

The Fall of the House of Usher is gothic horror.  Big dark mansions, family secrets, and a doomed romance.  There is no joy in the picture and there is little hope.  The characters are doomed from the onset and it is a matter of how long the optimist (aka Philip) can go before he sees the situation is hopeless and if he’ll be caught in it as well.  This can be a problem for a movie if you are looking for a chance for the characters, but with a Poe story, you can guess that it isn’t going to end well.

The cast is strong, but the acting is a style that is over-the-top and different than modern horror and films.  Vincent Price (and his dyed hair) is so crazy through the whole movie that you can’t see why Mark Damon’s “normal guy” character wouldn’t rip Myrna Fahey out of the house immediately because he’s obviously unbalanced.

fall of the house of usher ending vincent price myrna fahey

Did you mess up my Netflix’s queue!!!

The film had a much bigger budget than most of the AIP pictures, but it still was a low budget picture.  Corman was known for his frugal directing, but he also was known because he did a good job with what he had.  The Fall of the House of Usher has a great example of this in that the fire at the end was a barn that was going to be destroyed…he reused it in multiple movies.  Despite cheap means like this, Corman gets a picture with a bright, vibrant look while still keeping the dark dreariness of Poe’s story.

The Fall of the House of Usher is classic Poe and classic horror.  It might not be a jump out of your seat type of horror film, but it has that dread that horror took (especially before film).  It is the growing dread and creative shooting on a relatively low budget that made this film work (and still work).  It is a horror classic along the lines of the great Universal Monster films.  The Fall of the House of Usher was followed by The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) in Corman’s Poe adaptations.

Related Links:

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

The Premature Burial (1962)

Tales of Terror (1962)

The Masque of Red Death (1964)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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