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The Fall of the House of Usher (1949 version)


Swithin
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When I was a child, there was no such thing as PBS. Channel 13, which became our New York PBS station in 1962, was just a regular channel. It featured a weekly horror film program: Shock-o-Rama, which presented an odd bunch of films, as opposed to the classic Universal horror shown on Shock Theater on ABC/Channel 7. 

 

One of the films I remember with great affection on Shock-o-Rama was the 1949 English version of The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Ivan Barnett. It used to give me nightmares, images of a hag with a knife guarding a head in the wall. I hadn't seen it for decades. It was broadcast on TCM two years ago, introduced as a premiere by RO; I recorded it and watched it a couple of days ago. It terrified me once again. That hag -- that knife -- that head! 

 

My cable company rated it 1/2 star and called it "amateurish." It may be low budget, but it has some incredibly moody cinematography -- almost Dreyer-esque. Much of the plot is true to Poe's story, although the hag and the head have been added. It reminded me of the terror that I felt as a child, watching this creepy and atmospheric film. So much better, in my opinion, than the (albeit fun) baroque campiness of the Corman/Price version (and there are many other versions as well). I highly recommend the 1949 version to those of you who are fans of mood and atmosphere over traditional narrative.

 

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Lucy Pavey as The Hag

 

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