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This review originally appeared in issue 9 of THE CINEMA LASER.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
PIT AND THE PENDULUM

After waiting all of forever to see these movies finally presented right on Laserdisc, Image Entertainment in conjunction with Orion Home Video has begun releasing the AIP/Poe series in their full wide screen splendor! The first offering is THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and PIT AND THE PENDULUM.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER is one of the highlights of the AIP/Poe series and one of the more faithful adaptations of a Poe story (some only used the titles from the Poe stories). The plot concerns a young man in love, who travels to the ancestral home of his fiancee only to find her dying from the decay and madness that has ravaged her family throughout the ages. Vincent Price gives a touching performance as Roderick Usher, a man whose senses are so acute that life has become an unbearable agony. Myrna Fahey portrays his sister, a woman who eventually is overtaken by the madness that surrounds her, and Mark Damon as her fiancee.

Director Roger Corman made THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER on a small budget, but one would never know it because Floyd Crosby's wonderful cinematography makes everything appear far more opulent. Crosby's cinematography also makes striking compositional use of the full CinemaScope frame and colors are used to a stirring emotional effect. Thanks to the new Letterboxed transfer, one can finally see Crosby's work the way he originally intended it to be seen. I don't know how I was able to sit through THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER all those countless times it played television, without the benefit of the full CinemaScope frame. This Laserdisc truly is a revelation. Not only do we get THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER in 'scope, but the color is superior to what many saw during the film's initial theatrical run. Detail is also exemplary; it's amazing what the telecine operator was able to squeeze out of the film elements. For a film that cost a paltry $270,000.00 in 1960, the transfer is a knockout. The digital monaural soundtrack is also solid.

PIT AND THE PENDULUM was the second film in the AIP/Poe series and it is almost as good as the first, just for the presence of sixties horror icon Barbara Steele. PIT AND THE PENDULUM is less faithful to Poe and more in tune with what the rest of the series would become. The plot concern the horror that is a family's legacy and the madness that ensues. Vincent Price turns in another tortured performance as Nicholas Medina, a man recently widowed, and haunted by the memories of his father murdering his mother. Barbara Steele portrays Medina's deceased wife, whom he fears, may have been buried alive. John Kerr, in his final screen appearance, is the dead woman's brother, and the unfortunate victim of an encounter with the torture device of the film's title.

As with THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USER, PIT AND THE PENDULUM is another revelation. Floyd Crosby's camera work is even better than it was in the previous film, and the Letterboxed transfer is a joy to behold. The image is sharp and detailed and the color is outstanding considering the film's age and budget. There are a couple of minor markings on the film element, but this presentation remains excellent. The digital monaural soundtrack was in good shape, and will take a modest amount of amplification without distorting. This double feature is presented across three sides, and the Pioneer LDCA pressing had only modest speckling.

Image Entertainment has to be congratulated for this fine presentation and pricing this double feature at $50.00. The $50.00 price tag keeps this release within the reach of every Laserdisc collector and comes very highly recommended (if Image would only show this level of marketing savvy with every title the Laserdisc format would have a bright future). If you can't find THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USER and PIT AND THE PENDULUM at your local Laserdisc dealer because it's out of print, I recommend that you call, write and fax Image to immediately press more copies.

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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