Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film





Director: Jesus Franco
Screenplay: Jesus Franco
Music: Daniel J. White
Cast: Howard Vernon, Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay, Fata Morgana, Daniel J. White, Jose Llamas, Juana de la Morena; French version additions: Jean Tolzac, Joan Virly, Francoise Blanchard, Olivier Mathot
Running time: 78/90 minutes



EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER is the rare Spanish version of NEUROSIS/REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER, which is now out on DVD. Few seem to have seen the 78 minute version which contains a precredit sequence not in NEUROSIS, along with other scenes not in the English language export version.

NEUROSIS is the 90 minute Eurocine prepared alternate which contains scenes featuring Jean Tolzac and Olivier Mathot (as a grotesque, facially disfigured Morpho). Francoise Blanchard is the comatose Mellisa in this version. Antonio Mayans is the protagonist in both versions, Dr. Alan Hacker, who arrives at the imposing castle of Eric Usher (Howard Vernon) after being summoned by the aged Doctor. Lina Romay is the frisky housekeeper, who also helps keep Usher's secrets.

NEUROSIS is not an easy film to like or even sit through at first and for those unfamiliar with Franco it may be the kiss of death. After a number of viewings I have come to admire the film, if from an aesthetic distance, although I would like a look at HUNDIMIENTO also. Franco has said that he tried to film it as an expressionist throwback to the style of Murnau. It almost works on that level. The dense hues--blinding yellows, deep reds and disturbing oranges--seem to be the text Franco is interested in, along with the craggy facial geography of the legendary Howard Vernon. Mayans looks uncomfortable and slightly out of place in his period outfit, and his English dubbed voice on the disc invites unintended titters. Watch it in the French language option with English subtitles, if you can.
I suspect much of the bad ink this film has gotten over the years is partly a result of the rather absurd English language script. In French, it plays like the serious Poe adaptation it was meant to be. Just compare the song the teasing women sing as they ring Usher in the French version with the more common children's song in the English dubbing. There's no contest, the French version of this scene is much more effective. Serious, but not conventional by any means. It remains Franco's film and even the "flashbacks" to pristine footage from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE create a unique parallel text and rich opportunities for comparative studies. Even though much of it is static and repetitive it remains always visually striking.

It's always a treat to watch Vernon, a dignified, evocative presence here. He seems to get better with age, subtly suggesting a once hopeful youth trapped in a hide of pain and age, tortured by a lifetime of shattering failures.

The opening shots of NEUROSIS show Mayans riding through a landscape which has a lunar feel to it. At the same time I thought I remembered it from some 1960's Spaghetti Westerns. It's familiar from other 1980s Spanish lensed Franco films and that's part of its charm. In any case, it's a film to be watched and watched again as it improved for me after seeing the DVD presentation.

-- Reviewed by Robert Monell

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Revenge in the House of Usher