EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER is the rare Spanish version of
NEUROSIS/REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER, which is now out on DVD. Few
seem to have seen the 78 minute version which contains a precredit
sequence not in NEUROSIS, along with other scenes not in the English
language export version.
NEUROSIS is the 90 minute Eurocine prepared alternate which contains
scenes featuring Jean Tolzac and Olivier Mathot (as a grotesque,
facially disfigured Morpho). Francoise Blanchard is the comatose Mellisa
in this version. Antonio Mayans is the protagonist in both versions, Dr.
Alan Hacker, who arrives at the imposing castle of Eric Usher (Howard
Vernon) after being summoned by the aged Doctor. Lina Romay is the
frisky housekeeper, who also helps keep Usher's secrets.
NEUROSIS is not an easy film to like or even sit through at first and
for those unfamiliar with Franco it may be the kiss of death. After a
number of viewings I have come to admire the film, if from an aesthetic
distance, although I would like a look at HUNDIMIENTO also. Franco has
said that he tried to film it as an expressionist throwback to the style
of Murnau. It almost works on that level. The dense hues--blinding
yellows, deep reds and disturbing oranges--seem to be the text Franco is
interested in, along with the craggy facial geography of the legendary
Howard Vernon. Mayans looks uncomfortable and slightly out of place in
his period outfit, and his English dubbed voice on the disc invites
unintended titters. Watch it in the French language option with English
subtitles, if you can. I suspect much of the bad ink this
film has gotten
over the years is partly a result of the rather absurd English language
script. In French, it plays like the serious Poe adaptation it was meant
to be. Just compare the song the teasing women sing as they ring Usher
in the French version with the more common children's song in the
English dubbing. There's no contest, the French version of this scene is
much more effective. Serious, but not conventional by any means. It
remains Franco's film and even the "flashbacks" to pristine
footage from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE create a unique parallel text and rich opportunities
for comparative studies. Even though much of it is static
and repetitive it remains always visually striking.
It's always a treat to watch Vernon, a dignified, evocative presence
here. He seems to get better with age, subtly suggesting a once hopeful
youth trapped in a hide of pain and age, tortured by a lifetime of shattering failures.
The opening shots of NEUROSIS show Mayans riding through a landscape
which has a lunar feel to it. At the same time I thought I remembered it
from some 1960's Spaghetti Westerns. It's familiar from other 1980s
Spanish lensed Franco films and that's part of its charm. In any case,
it's a film to be watched and watched again as it improved for me after
seeing the DVD presentation.
-- Reviewed by Robert Monell
Widescreen DVD and viewer reviews
available on Amazon.com
Revenge in the House of Usher