Roger Corman’s Poe series of films have always been popular with horror aficionados and were made for HD with the bold colour schemes and widescreen cinematography. The first in the series, The Fall Of The House Of Usher was made in 1960 and starred Vincent Price and Mark Damon, this was seen as a risk for American International Pictures as before they specialised in low budget, black and white movies, but Corman persuaded them to double the budget and shoot in colour to give the films a more classy look, and it worked.
When Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) visits his fiancée Madeleine Usher (Myrna Fahey) in her crumbling family mansion, her brother Roderick (Price) tries to talk him out of the wedding, explaining that the Usher family is cursed and that extending its bloodline will only prolong the agony. Madeleine wants to escape with Philip, but neither of them can predict what ruthless and cruel lengths Roderick will go to in order to keep them apart.
Vincent Price changed his appearance for the film, dying his hair blonde giving his features a very ashen look. He really is the star here, giving a cold menacing and stand out performance. Mark Damon looks like your average 50’s hero with his slick-backed hair and handsome features but does ok in the part. The script by Richard Matheson is excellent and the widescreen cinematography by Floyd Crosby give the film a much bigger look than the budget would suggest. Shot in 14 days the film has great atmosphere, not really frightening as such but fans of Gothic horror will be very happy with this presentation.
The picture is very good, the 1080p transfer is sharp, a little soft in places but overall its a very clean solid transfer. Colours really stand out in places, reds and blues look fabulous and black levels are solid for most of the presentation. Audio is Original uncompressed 2.0 Mono PCM Audio and serves the film fine, clear with no audio problems at all.
Extras are plentiful as expected from Arrow’s excellent presentations.
- Audio commentary with director and producer Roger Corman. He talks extensively about the production, the stars involved etc, very interesting and well worth a listen. This commentary was first heard on the MGM DVD release in 2001.
- Legend to Legend: An interesting interview with the director and former Corman apprentice Joe Dante who talks about low budget filmmaking and Corman in particular.
- Interview with author and Gothic horror expert Jonathan Rigby. Excellent and knowledgeable talk about the film, going into details about the production, the stars etc.
- Fragments of the House of Usher: A Specially-commissioned video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns examining Corman’s film in relation to Poe’s story. A bit Poe faced if you pardon the pun, I found this hard to listen too.
- Archival interview with Vincent Price. Fabulous, but too short interview Vincent Price did for French TV. It shows his warm personality and a great sense of humour. Shame it wasn’t longer.
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Tim Lucas and an extract from Vincent Price’s long out of print autobiography, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
Another great release from Arrow. Available as a standard Blu ray or a beautiful limited edition tin (pictured above).
FILM: 7 PICTURE: 8 SOUND: 7 EXTRA’S: 7.5