House of Usher (1960)

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” this was the first of eight Poe adaptions by Roger Corman, often working with writer Richard Mattheson. Shot in fifteen days, it was a big gamble for American-International Pictures, who had mostly done black and white double features. This was a color movie with a big budget by AIP’s standards.

The most important thing to know is that the Usher family are all cursed to grow mad and that horrible portent has spread to the very home they live in, which is crumbling around them and even destroying the very ground that it sits upon.

Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon, Black Sabbath) thas traveled to the House of Usher to take his fiancee Madeline, which is opposed by her brother Roderick (Vincent Price), who is determined to see his family’s bloodline end with this generation. This leads to an argument so brutal that Madeline’s catalepsy is triggered, making her appear dead and when she’s buried alive, she fully gives in to the madness within the Usher family, bringing the entire home down in flames all around everyone but our hero, who leaves with nothing.

Although Corman and Lou Rusoff are the people usually given credit for the AIP Poe cycle of films, Damon spoke up on a Black Sabbath commentary track, claiming he gave Corman the idea and was even allowed to direct The Pit and the Pendulum. This story hasn’t been confirmed, as here are several images of Corman directing that movie.

The success of this movie led to not only many more films with Corman and Price working together, but also the same sets and special effects being used over again. You can spot the Usher house set ablaze in more than one movie. It was really a barn scheduled to be demolished.

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