CANNON MONTH 2: Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher (1989)

I’m really in love with what 21st Century did with their Poe movies, which was to barely skim the originals and then just do whatever they wanted, as long as they had some of the names and events inside. Just hire the right actors — Oliver Reed, Donald Pleasence — and let’s have some fun.

Molly McNulty (Romy Walthall, The Howling IV) and her fiancee Ryan Usher (Rufus Swart, Space Mutiny) are on the way to London to visit his uncle Roderick (Reed) when he swerves to miss two ghost-like children standing in the road (I really need to do a Letterboxd list of movies in which ghost children cause car crashes). Barely surviving, Molly makes it to Roderick’s mansion. When she awakens the next day, she’s told he’s receiving care, but the truth is that the old man wants her — and the way that she can help him escape the cursed incestual Usher bloodline — all for himself. Also: he’s imprisoned his brother Walter (Pleasence) in the upstairs of the house.

PS: Those kid ghosts never figure into anything else in this movie.

Shot in the same South African house that director Alan Birkinshaw and writer Michael J. Murray made The Masque of the Red Death in for 21st Century — are they starting to feel a little Empire or nascent Full Moon with all these castle epics? — this movie goes off the rails in the best of ways, featuring a scene where Roderick drugs McNulty and marries her himself, shoving a piece of cake in her mouth and eating it while still in her open mouth, topped by a later scene where she imagines that she’s making love to her fiancee in the shower — she thinks he’s dead — and wakes up to a nude Reed pounding it out. Also: for some reason Pleasence has a drill mounted on his hand. An oh, before I forget — and how could I — Roderick deals with a doctor who wants to have sex with his new bride by feeding the man’s cock to a rat that he has starved for this exact purpose. That’s planning.

There’s also an outright ripoff of the hands coming out of the wall from Day of the Dead and it nearly made me cheer and run around the room I got so excited.

There’s also a butler named Clive (Norman Coombes), his maid wife (Anne Stradi) and their daughter Gwen (Carole Farquhar) all living in the house or they were before Walter escapes and kills them before dancing a little jig. Then Roderick heaves him down the stairs, the house catches on fire and Molly decides to open a sarcophagus and finds her drugged fiancee, although I have no idea how they plan on getting married after all this.

And then it’s all a dream! We go right back to the beginning!

This movie looks so lavish and I just fell in love with every bit of its look. The interiors were shot in South Africa, while the outside of the Usher house is actually Blenheim Palace, which you may recognize from The Legend of Hell HouseBarry LyndonKing Ralph and so many more movies. I adore that this film is at once a gothic romantic horror and a direct-to-video mindwarp.

Of course this was produced by Harry Alan Towers. I mean, who else? This is literally everything I want in movies, the kind of junk that most people would laugh off and yet I find so much to gush over.

Oh! One last thing. This totally recycles Gary Chang’s score for 52 Pick-Up and some of the music from Ten Little Indians. I have no idea how Menahem Golan got those seeing as how he was no longer with Cannon.

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