Friday, May 27, 2011
Franco Friday: Revenge in the House of Usher
The Franco slump is over! The last three films were a freakin' chore. I feel as though this awful movie just saved the day. Leave it to one of the worst examples of Franco's... DARE I SAY IT?... genius to get me through the badness. Oh yeah. Don't let that VHS cover fool you, there isn't a power tool within miles of this flick.
Franco Friday #18
Revenge in the House of Usher
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Howard Vernon, Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay, Fata Morgana, Daniel White, Francois Blanchard, Olivier Mathot, Jean Tolzac
Dr. Alan Hacker (played by Antonio Mayans) travels to the castle of his old professor, Dr. Usher (Howard Vernon). Hacker quickly learns that his old teacher has gone mad. Aside from claiming that he is 200 years old, Usher is obsessed with resurrecting his dead daughter by giving her blood transfusions from unwilling girls he’s kidnapped. Usher has a bevy of servants at his disposal including the blind Morpho (Olivier Mathot), the portly Mathias (Jean Tolzac), and the lovely Helen the housekeeper (Lina Romay). None of these fools can help him with his craziness. Dr. Usher is haunted by the ghostly figures led by the spirit of his dead wife. And of course, in true Usher family fashion, the damn castle is gonna collapse.
I think Revenge in the House of Usher gets labeled as one of Jess Franco's worst because it has been out on home video (either in VHS or DVD) in the States for a long time. All of those people should have seen Eugenie de Sade and only like six people (myself included) should have even heard of this film. I have my problems with it but I enjoyed this inept romp probably more than I should have. This film’s biggest offence: it uses footage from The Awful Dr. Orloff as flashbacks for Dr. Usher. Normally, I would consider this to be totally unforgivable but I figured out that if you were to remove (or fast forward through) the 15 minutes (!) of Orloff footage, you get this film down to a much more digestible 75 minutes. There are even the ubiquitous characters named Dr. Seward and Morpho.
One problem is that the film is obviously two different shoots, possibly two different sets of players, slapped together. The musical score for the film feels like it’s been culled from the library. I doubt an original score would have done much to improve this film but hey, why not, right? The camerawork is excellent with lots of interesting angles. The same camerawork is also quite sloppy with out of focus bits and lots of annoying bouncing (this may have been the print I was watching but still). Luckily, this castle setting, that I’ve seen many Franco films take place in, is always very photogenic.
So what the hell? This sounds terrible! It is terrible but it’s also the best kind of terrible. If viewed as a gothic comedy with occasional bits of horror and atmosphere, then Revenge in the House of Usher succeeds in every way. It’s almost all the fault of the horrendous dubbing, something I am beginning to appreciate more and more from these Euro-cheapies. If this flick wasn’t meant to be a comedy then no one informed the voice actors. The voice actor who dubs Howard Vernon is so outrageously bad in this film that he deserves some kind of an award or free pancakes for a year or something.
My soul asked for it and the gods have listened. I begged with my heart of hearts for Lina Romay to keep her damn clothes on and she finally listened. It is astonishing to me that Lina Romay full clothed and acting seductive is 1000x sexier than her writhing around in ecstasy completely naked. She may have once been a contender for the title of Greatest Pair of Eurotrash-Bobbins ever but after film upon film of her undulating in her birthday suit, I needed a fucking break. And I love her character in this one too. Helen is the devoted servant who falls before the feet of Dr. Usher, begging him to love her. But hey, she’s still a horny woman with needs, you know? She’s gotta try to get some on the side.
I can see why people don’t like this film. It is a hard pill to swallow what with how stupid and lazy it was made. The use of 15 minutes from another film is inexcusable. But damn it, Revenge in the House of Usher works especially when it doesn't. Alongside all of the goofy and utterly hilarious crap, there lingers a spooky mood and more than two heaping bucketfuls of weirdness. If you enjoyed either Rites of Frankenstein or Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, there’s no way you’re not going to at least find this flick amusing. There’s a game of ring around the rosies, some ladies chained up in the dungeon, and enough slapdash confounding bullshit to make you crack a smile, all just waiting for you.
“Look Seward, I’m not very well versed in this new science of psychoanalysis. In any event, you don’t start at the age of 200 which is how old he claims to be!”