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The Fall of the Louse of Usher: A Gothic Tale for the 21st Century

UK 2002
produced by
Ken Russell for Gorsewood
directed by Ken Russell
starring James Johnston, Elize Russell (= Lisi Tribble), Marie Findley, Ken Russell, Leslie Nunnerley, Emma Millions, Pete Mastin, Sandra Scott, Alex 'Alien' Russell, Roger Wilkes, Claire Cannaway, Sam Kitcher, Suki Uruma, Mediaeval Babes, Jackie Lowe, Ann Thomas, Neil Brookes, Leonie Brookes, Leah
screenplay by Ken Russell, based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, music by James Johnston

House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cat, Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M.Valdemar, Murders in the Rue Morgue

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Rock musician Rod Usher (James Johnston) is sent to the insane asylum for having murdered his wife Annabelle Lee (Emma Millions), then having walled her up together with her black dog, a crime which he denies and for which he admittedly had no motive. Eccentric Doctor Calahari (Ken Russell) somehow doubts Rod is guilty as well, and suspects Rod's sister Madeleine (Elize Russell) despite her airtight alibi, but he simply cannot lay his hands on her, and even the one time she comes visit her brother, she makes a daring escape rather than speak to the doctor.

However, the insane asylum is a really insane place, and Calahari seems to be king of the loonies for another reason than his professional qualifications: He tries to keep poor Valdemar (Pete Mastin) alive after dead for no other reason than to make a point, he keeps a mummy as his assistant, and his head nurse (Marie Findley) is quite obviously a sadistic nymphomaniac, who tries to seduce Rod more than once. Eventually, Calahari's staff revolts, so he has them all rounded up and incarcerated. But they break out and take over the loonie bin. For some reason, the head nurse convinces Rod to fake his own death to make an escape. Rod succeeds, but when he finally arrives at his mansion, he finds his sister has murdered herself over his death - but she has left a confession: She has indeed murdered Annabelle Lee - via a remote controlled gorilla. Now it's up to Rod to kill himself to be with her. But the gorilla is already busy bringing up a new generation of Ushers taking Rod and Madeleine's place.

And doctor Calahari - oh, he remains in the asylum, but as patient. But he is so caught up in writing his memoirs he doesn't even realize he has switched sides. And his head nurse is still always with him - a patient herself though ...


There's one word that very accurately describes Ken Russell's The Fall of the Louse of Usher, and that's mad. And that somehow makes perfect sense in the context of Ken Russell's filmography. Sure, the film doesn't look like the work of a 75 year old respected artist who according to public opinion is deemed to repeat himself over and over to not shatter his public image. Instead, The Fall of the Louse of Usher looks like the film of a kid with a videocamera, a bunch of motivated hands and a modest budget at hand making a movie that goes berserk taking apart its source material. And apart from the kid-part - Russell was really 75 when he made the movie - this perception is absolutely right: Here is a director who has fun. Sure, some times he goes too far, his humour is a bit of the hit-and-miss variety, and the lack of budget might show a bit too painfully at times. But you can also find something fresh, wild, mean, disrespectful in this movie ... a form of disrespect a man like Edgar Allan Poe, who was known for his quirky humour, would probably have loved.

And why does the movie make perfect sense in Ken Russell's filmography?

Sure, the man might have made serious arthouse flicks like Gothic or The Music Lovers, which were serious investigations of recognized works of art, but with films like the highly ironic musical Tommy, the mad Lisztomania and the bizarre Bram Stoker-adaptation The Lair of the White Worm, he also showed a wilder (and let's be frank, more inventive) side.

That all says very little of The Fall of the Louse of Usher itself though, and to be honest, it's not one of the best works of Ken Russell, more of a collection of absurdities revolving around Edgar Allan Poe's central stories like Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Facts in the Case of M.Valdemar and the like, while at the same time also playing with pulp mainstays resulting from them, and creating dirty jokes resulting from them. That all is good fun, even if the jokes are of a hit-or-miss quality, but to be frank, we have seen Russell do better, haven't we?


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


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directed by
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written by
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