Directed by Jean Epstein [Other horror films: L’auberge rouge (1923)]
This is one of the few remaining silent horror films that I needed to see, and the reason why I hadn’t seen it up until this point was that this French movie (known as The Fall of the House of Usher, based off an Edgar Allan Poe story) is easy to find in it’s native language, but not so much in English.
After finally seeing it – well, let me get something really important out of the way first.
I am delighted that I got to see a version which I could actually read the inter-titles to, but this print was beyond rough. It wasn’t tinted, which wasn’t a big deal (I didn’t even notice until halfway through the movie), but it was extraordinarily blurry, and the English translations weren’t captioned at the bottom, as usual, but superimposed over the existing French inter-titles, which, while functional, was not aesthetically pleasing whatsoever. In fact, it may be one of the roughest silent prints I’ve seen, and you’re reading a guy who sat through Malombra.
Adding to that, the plot here isn’t always clear-cut, and the dubious nature of the print makes quite a bit of this even more difficult to fully grasp. Luckily, while I’ve not read the story in some time, I have seen the 1960 Corman version of the Poe classic, and thus got a bit more out of this than I would have gotten had I gone in not knowing how the story went.
Certainly there are some captivating uses of cinematography here, perhaps the one that comes to mind quickest the seemingly first-person view from the ground to indicate – – – something, I suppose. I didn’t exactly follow that part, but that’s the nature of some 80 year old films.
Even had the print been better, a decent amount of this film felt off. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was experimental, but I do think they didn’t want to go a more traditional route as far as story structure was concerned. As such, no one performance really stuck out to me (Jean Debucourt would be the only one to come close, and he didn’t come that close), and overall, while I would definitely like to give this movie another go with a cleaner print, I had to say that this silent film didn’t really impress me.
Kudos to it being the oldest French horror film I’ve seen, though, so that’s cool. Otherwise, though, even as a fan of silent horror, this didn’t do that much for me at all.