January 4, 2014

Movie Review: Revenge in the House of Usher

I am not sure I will ever understand or be able to explain the attraction of Jess Franco. I have only seen a handful of his films and they can be frustrating, obtuse, stylish, and atmospheric. His films can also be boring, dull, dry, silly, and amateurish. Stuff is there just to be there and sometimes it feels like he doesn't know what he is making and the plot is a by product of whatever scenes he happens to have shot. The latest creation of his to penetrate my eye sockets is Revenge in the House of Usher, a title that has been glaring at me whenever I pass it in my Netflix queue.

The movie is also known as Neurosis: The Fall of the House of Usher, Revolt in the House of Usher, and, for some odd reason, Zombie 5 (don't confuse it with Zombie 5: Killing Birds). Whatever title you see it under, you will surely be bored, or at least hypnotized, by the oddity that is this movie. Now, don't let the title fool you, it has just a little tiny bit to do with the Edgar Allan Poe tale and to further confuse the issue has a few characters borrowed from Bran Stoker's Dracula. Trust me, it gets better yet.

Alan Harker (Antonio Mayans, aka Robert Foster) is called to the castle of Dr. Eric Usher (Howard Vernon), a former teacher of Harker's. Usher lives in the large, creaky old castle with his near catatonic daughter, mute servant Morpho, and his dead wife, who may be a vampire. Very strange indeed. It gets stranger when Harker discovers the young women that Usher has in cages in the basement. It turns out Usher is using the blood of virgins to keep his daughter alive (and you would not believe how easy it is to transfuse blood).

After a odd day of wandering and meandering and interacting with Usher, his forward maid (Lina Romay), and discovering the secret in the dungeon, Harker is called to sit down with Usher so he can unload himself. I guess the reason Usher wanted Harker to come was to have a therapy session. The two sit down and Usher proceeds to recount just how things started with his daughter and the women and the blood transfusions. Apparently Usher is over a hundred years old and he has been doing this for some time.

Now, here is where Franco looks to get a little creative, finding a new use for an older piece of his filmography. As Usher tells his tale, Franco employs flashbacks to show these events, but he doesn't just shoot some new scenes, he uses clips of one of his other movies. It just so happens that Franco and Howard Vernon have worked together on a few occasions, including a 1962 feature called The Awful Dr. Orlof. On top of that, Orlof did some things similar to what Usher does, kidnapping young women and the like. So, chunks of the older film are inserted in this movie to serve as flashbacks. I would be lying if I did not think that was clever, but I also wish it was in a better movie.

Revenge in the House of Usher is a boring movie, there is just no getting around it. Still, I found I couldn't turn it off or look away. There is something hypnotic about Franco's films, this is an example of that. I do not think it is a good movie and the climax, which includes murder by nursery rhyme and the destruction of a bad model (I kid you not), is a little silly, but I still feel all right giving it a mild recommendation.

The thing I find most odd is that Franco is famous for his nudity and his gore, in short he delivers Euro-sleaze, and this movie has none. There is a hint of gore with a lone bloody knife and no nudity (odd, considering the caged virgins in the dungeon). If there is a movie that could benefit from a touch of sleaze, it would be this one. Still, check it out, if you think you can take it.

Mildly Recommended.

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