Twenty minutes into Ken Russell’s The Fall Of The Louse Of Usher, I was ready to turn it off. It’s shot on low-quality video using a point-and-shoot approach you would expect from a 5th grader. The props and costumes looked as if they were bought at a party store. The whole thing is as ugly as a movie can get. The acting is horrific. A lack of skill or artifice can be fine if you trade it in for something else, but this was just insufferable.
No doubt it was all intentional. Ken Russell stars in it himself, but I can’t see what he is after. There is nothing edgy or funny or raw about the low production value. He may have wanted to make something that would aggravate his audience, but I’m not sure why. Challenging your audience, or confronting your audience, or expressing anger toward your audience can all be used to accomplish something, but that is not the case here. The film is just a waste of everyone’s time.
The worst part is the dialogue. Each of the actors puts on a silly voice and a ridiculous accent. After an hour it’s just intolerable. Women’s roles come with the added bonus of being objectified by cheap, revealing costumes and lots of lip licking.
Russell plays a mad psychiatrist with a horrific German accent and a nasal voice. The Doctor runs an insane asylum where he tortures patients with orgies and medical procedures. It could all be some kind of self-parody, but it shows no insight or irony. The Doctor is treating a rockstar named Usher. Edgar Allan Poe’s work has always been an influence for Russell, but again, the film does not develop the connection or explain anything.
It was probably liberating to make a film without any concern for quality. I doubt there was much of a crew. It looks like it was filmed in Russell's backyard over the course of a weekend. Russell's last line is “and to sum up…” which he repeats over and over again. He appears unable to explain what he has made, or its purpose, and neither can I.
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Early in my career I was a PA on Whore. My job on set, all day, every day was to follow Russell around so people would know where he passed out because he was falling-down drunk. Beyond shitfaced, just utterly non-functional.
However, if they shot without him "watching" he would lose his mind, so I kept track of him and led him back to the chair. I would prod him alert to say action, and then keep him from falling out of the chair because he often nodded out during the take.
Theresa Russell stopped one of her monologues to storm over and slap Ken Russell until he came to enough to pay some attention. It was a nightmare.
I later used the experience as the outline for a character I wrote for Richard Hatch in a feature I directed.