Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher has been the subject of a number of filmic adaptations over the years, and while most fans of horror films consider Roger Corman‘s 1960 take to be the go-to version, I’d like to submit a couple of other, much earlier versions for your consideration.
Surprisingly, the year 1928 produced not one, but two different takes on Poe’s iconic tale, one American, and the other French..
First up is the American version, directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber and starring Webber along with Herbert Stern and Hildegarde Watson. Employing a number of different camera tricks and techniques, including prismatic shots and words which flow and float across the screen, this truly avant-garde take provides quite a unique, almost surreal take on Poe’s story and uses its scant 12 minute running time quite effectively.
At the same time, in France, director Jean Epstein was producing La Chute de la maison Usher. The film was co-written by Luis Buñuel, whose own directorial career would ultimately eclipse that of Epstein. Much longer than Watson and Webber’s take, clocking in at 63 minutes, this version does provide much more background and delves deeper into its characters, while remaining quite atmospheric throughout.
The version I’m presenting here retains the original French intertitles without an English translation, but really for a story like this, no translation is, I think, needed.
I really have no explanation as to why 1928 proved such a popular year for adapting this particular Poe tale, but the fact that it did is quite interesting because it provided a very interesting Halloween double feature, along with an intriguing look at how different directors can take the same story and make two completely different films from it.
- 31 French Movies to Watch for a Chilly October (talkinfrench.com)