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Film / The Fall of the House of Usher (1928, France)

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The Fall of the House of Usher is a 1928 film from France, directed by Jean Epstein, with a screenplay co-written by Epstein and a young Luis Buñuel. It is an adaptation of the famous story The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.

An old man named Allan arrives at the spooky, crumbling mansion occupied by Roderick Usher and his wife Madeline. The men of the Usher family are compelled to paint portraits of their loved ones, and so does Roderick, who is obsessed with his portrait of Madeline. Roderick doesn't let his own high fever stop him from painting, and he doesn't notice that his wife is getting sicker as the portrait nears completion.

Finally Roderick finishes the portrait, just in time for Madeline to collapse and die. Roderick insists on burying Madeline in the family tomb, and he insists on not nailing the coffin shut, an order that his servants ignore. After Madeline dies, Roderick stops painting, instead sitting in his study all day, waiting motionlessly for something to happen. And then Madeline's coffin slips off its platform...

One of many film adaptations of Poe's story, including an American short film also made in 1928, and a 1960 adaptation starring Vincent Price.


  • Buried Alive: They really should have checked more thoroughly before nailing Madeline up in that coffin.
  • Chiaroscuro: Pretty much the whole movie, except for the exteriors, is lit this way, with creepy light and shadow in the cavernous, empty Usher mansion.
  • Empathic Environment: A terrible thunderstorm strikes the mansion on the night that Madeline escapes from her coffin.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Not even animals will approach the Usher house, as shown in one scene where Allan approaches a dog and it scurries away.
  • Facecam: Done with Allan's face as he carries Madeline to a bed after she falls down and dies.
  • Let the Past Burn: The Ushers seem freed at the end by the collapse of their house.
  • Lighter and Softer: In the Poe story Roderick and Madeline are siblings, and there is loads of Incest Subtext. In this film, they are husband and wife.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The nameless visitor of Poe's story is here called Allan.
  • No Ontological Inertia: The house collapses, for some reason.
  • Old, Dark House: The super-creepy Usher mansion, way out on the moors, that no one wants to take Allan to.
  • Ominous Fog: The area around the Usher mansion is perpetually fogbound.
  • P.O.V. Cam: From the POV of obsessed Roderick as he approaches the portrait.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Changes the story quite a bit. Along with giving the story a Happy Ending and changing the nature of the relationship between Roderick and Madeline, the film also throws in an idea—Madeline gets sicker as the portrait nears completion—that is taken from a different Poe story, "The Oval Portrait". Luis Bunuel quit the production in protest over this.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the story Roderick and Madeline fall down dead together and the house collapses around them. In this film Madeline takes Roderick by the arm and pretty much drags him out of the house before it collapses.