More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look85.71%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating

Latest Reviews

One Child Nation (aka Born in China) by Jay Seaver

Kingdom (2019) by Jay Seaver

Chained for Life by Rob Gonsalves

Ready or Not by Peter Sobczynski

Nightingale, The by Jay Seaver

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy by Jay Seaver

Death of Dick Long, The by Jay Seaver

Blinded By the Light by Lybarger

Blinded By the Light by Peter Sobczynski

Good Boys by Peter Sobczynski

subscribe to this feed

Fall of the House of Usher, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Scary even when silent"
4 stars

Over the years, adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" have taken various liberties. To a certain extent, it's necessary - it's not a long story, and requires bulking up to get to the hour mark. Doing that tends to mean fleshing out the characters, giving them solid ties to the narrator and the outside world. And that's kind of cool, actually - "Usher" has a structure well-known enough that people don't mess with it too much, but it leaves filmmakers plenty of room to leave their own stamp on it, as Jean Epstein does in this silent version.

Here, the man who comes to visit the titular house is Allan (Charles Lamy), an old college friend of Sir Roderick Usher (Jean Debucourt). Naturally, the local town folk don't want to take him near the actual house, although it doesn't seem outwardly dangerous. Once inside, Allan finds that Roderick has fallen victim to the Usher family curse, an obsession with painting the portrait of his wife, Madeline (Marguerite Gance). The portrait is an incredible likeness, seeming almost able to walk off the page, but there's something wrong - the real Madeline seems to grow weaker as Roderick paints, though he seems either unable to see the connection or powerless to stop it.

Collaborator Luis Buñuel quit the film over Epstein's decision to ignore much of the story, and only a few basic similarities remain - a character named Roderick Usher, and a house that is due for at least a figurative collapse due to the lack of an heir. In Poe's story and most adaptations, Madeline is Roderick's sister, and the obsessive portrait-painting is entirely Epstein's own invention. Still, Epstein retains the most important part: The sense of approaching doom.

What he adds is an interesting idea in its own right, that perhaps art should not be concerned so much with mere reproduction. In his movie, creating a perfect representation weakens the original, destroying that which the artist seeks to preserve. It's an obsession that we see even now, as computer graphics push visual effects closer to photorealism, to name only one example. This film was made as talking cinema became more and more of an inevitability, perhaps already sounding a death knell for the stylized joys of silent cinema.

Epstein uses those styles nicely, too. The film isn't abstract like the J.S. Watson/Melville Webber version that came out the same year, but there is something unreal about the Ushers' mansion. The acting is certainly nowhere near as naturalistic as modern viewers are used to, but it's also not particularly theatrical, either.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" has been told at least a dozen times on film. I'm not sure whether or not there has been a great or definitive one - this one does its own thing too much to be that - but the Epstein version is among the most interesting.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/21/09 14:48:39
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

4/30/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess The best 'Usher' adaptation 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum




Directed by
  Jean Epstein

Written by
  Jean Epstein
  Luis Buñuel

  Jean Debucourt
  Marguerite Gance
  Charles Lamy

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast