House of Usher (1960)

“Did you know that I could hear the scratching of her fingernails on the casket lid?” The first of eight Roger Corman films adapted from Edgar Allan Poe tales for American International Pictures, House of Usher was scripted by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) and based on Poe’s classic 1839 short story The Fall of the House of Usher. If you’re a fan of low-budget horror films, all the necessary ingredients are here, including a creepy mansion in a state of decay surrounded by a desolate landscape, a family history of madness, a musty crypt nestled beneath the house and, of course, a bravura performance by Vincent Price (with his hair dyed blond!) as the deranged, hyper-sensitive “Roderick Usher.” The cast includes Myrna Fahey as “Madeline Usher,” Mark Damon as “Philip Winthrop” and Harry Ellerbe as “Bristol.” House of Usher (also known as The Fall of the House of Usher) was shot in just 15 days and clocks in at only 79 minutes. When Fahey dated Joe DiMaggio briefly in the early 1960s, she received death threats from a mentally ill Marilyn Monroe fan. “I had no thought of doing a series of Poe films. I just wanted to do Usher. And one of the executives at AIP said, ‘But there’s no monster in the house.’ I had to think fast, and I said, ‘The house is the monster.’ And they said OK.” —Roger Corman

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