5 The Fall of the House of Usher Adaptations That Were Made Before Mike Flanagan
The Usher family has many faces.
The work of Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who gave the world several dozen outstanding stories and poems, has been inspiring film directors for a hundred years. The ideas of the dark genius are so tangible that they simply demand to be translated into the language of cinema – and the directors have repeatedly taken on such a responsible task.
The Fall of the House of Usher is one of Poe's most famous works, and thanks to Mike Flanagan, viewers have recently been able to see it in a new light. But he is far from being the first, and not the only one, to decide to adapt this story for the screen.
1. The Fall of the House of Usher, 1928
One of the most original attempts to adapt Poe was made by Jean Epstein, a French avant-garde director known for his expressionist films. His The Fall of the House of Usher is an adaptation of the story of the same name that also incorporates elements of The Oval Portrait, a short story in which Poe spoke of the destructive power of art.
The story of Roderick Usher, and the illness of his wife (instead of the sister who was originally in Poe's novel), is told by Epstein in a non-linear and highly abstract manner. Perhaps the only thing that spoils the movie is the happy ending, which seems far-fetched for such a dark story.
Apart from that, Jean Epstein’s movie can be recommended for watching – unless you are not afraid of almost silent movies.
2. House of Usher, 1960
The most important Poe expert in the cinema was undoubtedly Roger Corman. In the 1960s, he managed to adapt almost all the famous works of the horror classic. House of Usher is Corman's first adaptation, in which the story of the curse of the Usher family is shown in the aesthetics of the 60s.
Dark-eyed handsome men, over-decorated castle rooms with a gloomy crypt, intricate staircases and enveloping fog – these are characteristic of Corman's lush aesthetic. In addition, the director portrays the Usher family as diabolical and criminal. Roderick even becomes a villain here, eager to kill his sister as soon as possible.
3. The House of Usher, 1989
Ryan and his fiancée Molly drive to the Usher house to visit Ryan's uncle Roderick. Halfway there the car gets crashed. Molly finds her way to the mansion but quickly discovers that the broken car is the least of her problems. Uncle Roderick's wife recently died, and now he is obsessed with the idea of continuing the Usher family line at all costs.
If the description made you think this movie would have a lot of weird and awkward erotic scenes, you were right. Molly will spend half the time fending off the advances of the mustachioed Roderick, and the other half wandering through the interiors of a Victorian mansion.
And let’s face it, this movie is only worth watching if you're not looking for anything original.
4. The House of Usher, 2006
Jill attends the funeral of her best friend Madeline, who died from a mysterious illness. Madeline's brother and Jill’s ex-boyfriend is also ill and begs the woman to stay with him for at least a few weeks. She agrees, not realizing that the last scion of the House of Usher has his own motives for keeping her by his side.
The slow pace of the movie only helps in this case – the viewer is immersed, along with Jill, in Usher's world of madness. This is not the canonical Fall of the House of Usher story, but a successful reimagining that, unlike many other iterations, is definitely worth seeing.
5. The Fall of the Louse of Usher, 2002
It is impossible to explain the plot of this movie. Here we have rocker Roderick Usher who is accused of murdering his wife and is sent to a mental hospital run by Doctor Сalahari (who said Caligari?). But everything that happens before and after is complete madness.
The Fall of the Louse of Usher is certainly not a good movie, but if you haven't had enough of an absolutely mind-blowing, extremely vulgar and completely off-putting experience in your life, after which you want to stop and ask yourself "What the hell was that?" – then director Ken Russell made this one for you.