The Fall of the House of Usher- Audio Drama (2010) – By Nic Brown

Edgar Allan Poe, the name draws gothic images of ravens, sinister mansions and peculiar characters to mind. Whether one likes his works or not, few would argue that Poe was one of the titular authors in the horror genre whose dark visions have helped shape both authors and screen writers imaginations for generations. His short story: “The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of the better known works of Poe and has been retold on the silver screen many times over the years. Vincent Price and Oliver Reed have both taken turns as the story’s pivotal character Roderick Usher. Now Macabre Mansion, a company known for its work making classic radio horror dramas available today, has released their own take on Poe’s tale of the cursed family of Usher.

The audio drama features a small, but talented cast: Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules, the Legendary Journeys”, “Gene Roddenberry’s, Andromeda”) is the narrator. John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise, “The Others”, “True Blood” “2012″), is The Doctor. Bonita Friedericy (NBC’s Chuck) is Madeline Usher and Jim O’Rear (The Dead Matter, Day Of The Dead, Star Trek 4, Lethal Weapon 3) plays the infamous Roderick Usher.

The Macabre Mansion version of the story is true to Poe’s short story, more so than many of the films. The story involves the narrator (Kevin Sorbo), receiving a letter from his old childhood friend, Roderick Usher. The letter begs the narrator to come visit Roderick at the family’s estate, the infamous House of Usher. Upon arriving the narrator finds his old friend in a horrible state. Roderick and his twin sister Madeline, are both afflicted with a strange illness that they attribute to a curse on the house of Usher. Roderick’s senses are acute to the point of painful for light and touch, but food has lost all taste to him. He is wasting away. Madeline’s symptoms are not defined, but she remains bedridden and soon after the narrator’s arrival she passes away.

Roderick’s mind is affected the same as his flesh and he becomes obsessed with the idea that his sister mustn’t join the “dead” buried in the cemetery outside. Instead he enlists his friend’s help in sealing her body in the crypt below the house itself. After this Roderick’s health and sanity both become more and more tenuous. When a terrible storm hits the house of Usher with strange electrical phenomena, will that be the last straw for Roderick’s sanity? Or is it actually the harbinger of doom as the curse finally reveals itself to Roderick and his friend?

The Macabre Mansion audio drama: “The Fall of the House of Usher” is an excellent example of an often overlooked story telling media. Unlike a normal audio book where the words are simply read to the listener, the audio drama harkens back to the days before television when radio created productions for listeners to “see” the words in their mind with sound effects and multiple voice actors handling the different roles. Sorbo’s deep, confident voice is an excellent counter to O’Rear’s fast, excited tone that helps him bring Roderick’s madness to life. As the drama was only based on a short story, the production is also fairly short, clocking in at about 30 minutes, but it definitely entertains and captures the listener’s imagination. Also, if the quality of the production isn’t enough to encourage sales, a portion of the proceeds from the drama are being donated to the World Fit For Kids charity. So if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just want to enjoy a good, old fashioned audio drama, while helping a good cause, then check out the Macabre Mansion production of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, it’s something a little different from what you may expect, but in a good way.