The Fall of the House of Usher (1960) – By Charles Rector

 The Fall of the House of Usher was the very first movie directed and produced by Roger Corman that starred Vincent Price. The Corman/Price duo worked together to create a series of eight movies that defined what horror movies were during the 1960’s. These movies were made without any gore and excessive sex/violence. Instead, they focus on atmosphere and well defined characters not to mention good scripts and quality creepy/chilling music to produce a scary mood.

The Fall of the House of Usher opens with Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) riding to the home of Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) to whom he is supposed be married to. He does not know what the circumstances that she lives in are like. He is about to find out to his chagrin that all of his preconceptions of her being a happy beauty in a good family are false for Madeline is more than a little bit crazy and her paternalistic brother Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) is even crazier.

Basically, both Madeline and Roderick have been sticken with serious illnesses. The senses of Roderick Usher have become seriously acute. Meanwhile, Madeline has become catatonic. On the evening of Philip Winthrop’s arrival, Roderick informs him of the Usher family curse in which when there are more than one Usher child, all of the Usher family siblings have gone insane and suffered horrible deaths. Naturally, this bothers Philip very much and he becomes all the more concerned for Madeline’s well being.

As Philip stays at the Usher family home, it becomes increasingly clear that there is something wrong going on here. There really does appear to be some sort of curse as evidenced by Madeline’s loud screamings and wailings that echo throughout the house. Meanwhile, Roderick is not exactly a model of sanity either. Roderick is basically an eternally tortured soul and the effects of the curse are becoming manifestly clearer with each passing day.

The Fall of the House of Usher was both a commercial and a critical success. Filmed on a budget of $270,000, the movie was a huge hit on the B Movie theater circuit, especially at drive in theaters. It is a masterpiece of atmospheric horror and the creepy music only adds to the feeling of dread. Vincent Price has an outstanding performance and Roger Corman’s direction is excellent. This movie is a great example of how horror flicks ought to be made and as such is heartily recommended.