Released the same year as Jean Epstein’s “La Chute de la Maison Usher”, this is the American avant-garde version of Poe’s classic short story.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” combines European influences with something home crafted. James Sibley Watson Jr. had seen the German expressionist film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” more than once during its 1921 New York City run. Not only do USHER’s impossibly angled sets draw from that film, but the top-hatted, cloaked “traveler” (played in expressionist makeup by Melville Webber) seems to echo the figure of Dr. Caligari himself. Less obvious now is the French influence. Whereas CALIGARI expressed a madman’s consciousness through set design and stylized acting alone, French experimental filmmaking of the twenties typically represented disturbed mental states through elaborate camera tricks and optical distortions. Indeed, such a style animates the more celebrated 1928 version of Poe’s story, Jean Epstein’s feature-length “La Chute de la Maison Usher”. Read More »