The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher

Drama, Horror, Mystery | 50 Mins | Released: 1956
Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: John Conte, Tom Tryon, Marshall Thompson, Eduardo Ciannelli, Joan Elan, Helen Wallace, Alan Kramer
Our Rating: 6
Black & White

A traveler arrives at the Usher mansion to visit his old friend, Roderick Usher. Upon arriving, however, he discovers that Roderick and his sister, Madeline, have been afflicted with a mysterious malady: Roderick’s senses have become painfully acute, while Madeline has become nearly catatonic. That evening, Roderick tells his guest of an old Usher family curse: any time there has been more than one Usher child, all of the siblings have gone insane and died horrible deaths. As the days wear on, the effects of the curse reach their terrifying climax.


Movie Notes:

This production was a made for TV movie in 1956 for the NBC Matinée Theatre Program. The quality of production is reflective of the time and technology available.

NBC Matinée Theater: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER {TV} (Boris Sagal, 1956)
by mario gauci, November 2013
“This was no fewer than the fifth adaptation of the famous Poe tale that I have watched during this Halloween Challenge (the others dated from 1966, 1979, 1981 and 1982 {Jan Svankmajer}) and the tenth overall (following my past viewing of the two 1928 versions, as well as the 1949, 1960 and 1982 {Jesus Franco} ones)! As such, it ranks among the lesser half of these but, interestingly enough, it is only the third stab at the narrative to emanate from the author’s native country! Naturally, being closer in chronology and likewise filmed in colour, this one especially evokes the feel of the seminal Roger Corman/Vincent Price take on it…but comes up short in comparison in a few major aspects, most notably the central casting! While the character of Madeleine is well enough defined, Tom Tryon exudes too much of a pretty boy image, albeit a fittingly brooding one, to truly register in the mind and, as for the interloper, Marshall Thompson looks fairly out-of-place here! Eduardo Ciannelli, then, lends reliable support as the family doctor and, for the record, there is even the figure of an androgynous(!) caretaker on hand! All in all, it gets the essence of the story across and, unlike some of the ones that came before and after, sticks close to the source – but, for this very reason, ultimately emerges an uninspired rendition of Poe’s horror classic, albeit remaining eminently watchable for the duration. In the end, I should point out that director Sagal would also tackle Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” for this TV series and, as for “…Usher” itself, I am interested in checking out at least 5 more films inspired by it: the 1979 made-for-TV one with Martin Landau; the 1989 one with Oliver Reed and Donald Pleasence, and produced by Harry Alan Towers; Ken Russell’s idiosyncratic THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER (2002); and Curtis Harrington’s two efforts, dating from 1942 and 2002, that effectively book-ended his career.”