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Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) has come to the House of Usher - an
old and decaying mansion brought to the USA from the UK brick by brick -
to pay his fiancée Madeline (Myrna Fahey) a visit. However, her brother
Roderick (Vincent Price) refuses to let him see her, claiming she has got
some terrible sickness, but refusing to go into detail. Winthrop is not
satisfied by Roderick's explanations and excuses since he remembers
Madeline as a very healthy woman - and he is right too, within a few
minutes Madeline appears, apparently very healthy, and she even asks
Winthrop to spend the night in the castle, despite or even because of her
brother's opposition. However, when Philip asks her to go away with him
and marry him, she finds all sorts of feeble excuses not at all unlike
those of her brother ...
Eventually, Roderick promises to tell Philip the true reason why he and
Madeline can't marry, but then he starts mumbling about the curse of the
House of Usher and even tries to relate an accident from the other day -
Philip was almost squashed by a chandelier - to the curse. Usher's whole
speech only upsets Philip and makes him more determined than ever to take
Madeline and leaves the house for good, the sooner the better ... and
wouldn't you know it, this time Madeline agrees, and the two decide to
leave in an hours time.
Then though Madeline gets into an argument with Roderick about the
whole affair - and argument that leaves her dead from a heart attack. With
the biggst of haste, Roderick has her buried in the family crypt, then he
once again urges Philip to leave the house - and with his fiancée gone,
Philip agrees ... until he learns that catalepsia runs in the Usher family
and thus Madeline might not be dead at all - and when he opens her coffin,
he finds her gone.
It turns out that Roderick has put her into another coffin which he
chained shut in a secret hiding place within the mansion, and despite
Philip threatening him, he won't give away the secret place. Finally,
Philip looks for the coffin himself, but when he finds Madeline has
already freed herself with the strength of a madman, and now she goes
after her brother ...
The finale has Madeline, mad as a hatter, strangling Roderick to death
while the House of Usher simultanuously catches fire and falls apart. Only
Philip can save his own hide ...
Roger Corman's very first Edgar Allan Poe adaptation (he made 8 in
total) is a triumph in atmospheric moviemaking. Despite up to now having
filmed primarily in black and white, Corman turns out to be a master in
choice of moody colours, even though he has learned his trade in
fast-paced drive-in cinema, he is perfectly able to adapt his directorial
style to the deliberately slower pace of this film, and despite the great
number of silly (but often wonderful) sci-fi pics he has made up to now,
Corman proves himself perfectly capable of understanding the more subtle
undertones of the film's plot (even if it's considerably removed from
Poe's short story.
Like most of Corman's Poe-adaptations, this one is a deserved horror