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The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)

Directed by James Sibley Watson & Melville Webber

This silent film version of Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale has a runtime of just thirteen minutes and although only short it offers an interesting interpretation of the story. Viewers who are already familiar with Poe's story will probably have a better understanding of what is going on, but even those who have never read "The Fall of the House of Usher" should still enjoy this little slice of cinematic history.

The film has a surreal feel to it and some interesting effects are created by tilting of the camera, which is just one of many ways employed to offers a distorted picture of reality in the House of Usher.

One of my favourite scenes occurs about four minutes into the film. A dazed Madeline Usher is wandering the corridors and stairways of the house and, in fact, looks to be almost sleepwalking, when she sees a coffin leaned against the wall. At this point several thing all happen at once. Madeline slumps her shoulders and, seeming to be filled with despair, collapses in front of the casket, resting her hand against it. Meanwhile, at the top of the screen the shadow of a hammer appears, rising and falling and obviously representative of the fact that she will soon be nailed inside the coffin. At the same time the screen is framed to the left and the right by an overlay of some stairs. They are angled at about forty-five degrees and dropping downwards in an escalator-like fashion,  seeming symbolic of Madeline being caught up in the machinations of the house. And all of this is happening under the covert scrutiny of a white-faced man (the traveller), who is dressed all in black and who, quite frankly, gives me the creeps.

Related pages:

The Fall of the House of Usher (online text)

Public Domain Movie: La Chute de la Maison Usher (1928)

This version of "The Fall of the House of Usher" is filled with symbolism and I am sure that every viewer will have his or her own interpretation of what everything means but make of it what you will, it is a true gem.


 Herbert Stern  ...  Roderick Usher
 Hildegarde Watson ...  Madeline Usher
 Melville Webber ...  A Traveller 

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