Welcome to My Full-Time RV Living LifeStyle Blog!

I suppose I should mention that this is an RV blog. The picture of me standing beside a motorhome in the banner probably tipped you off to that fact already, but you know how it is with blogs, any body can put anything in the header.

Anyways, I was born, raised, and live in Maine, I have 12 cats, and some people would call me homeless. Nope, I have a home, I just don't have what people call a standard house. My house has wheels and her name is Rosebud. My backyard stretches on for thousands and thousands of miles all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Once upon a time I had a "regular home" but a flood came and took it away. Me and my cats spent the next 3 years living under a 8x6 tarp and survived through 3 blizzards and Maine's coldest winter on record when the temps hit -48F. After that me and the cats moved in a Volvo. As hard as it is to live in a tent with 12 cats, it's even harder to live in a Volvo with 12 cats, and a motorhome named No Hurry was the answer. No Hurry: my home, my office, my RV.

I plan to use this blog to share my thoughts, ideas, adventures, and advice on being self-employed, living and working a full-time RV LifeStyle with an army of cats, while boondocking in the wonderful (and sometimes sub-zero) state of Maine.

I hope to write a post a day featuring random thoughts as they pop into my head, and hopefully 2 or 3 posts per week will focus on something helpful to those seeking to live in an RV full time. If you've any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on what sort of posts you'd like to see me write, please comment and let me know.

I hope you all have as much fun reading this blog as I know I'll have writing it.

~Wendy

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The House of a Madman A Look At Vincent Price’s Portrayal of Roderic Usher (Exploration #5 for SMCC ENGL100)






Wendy C. Allen                                                                Exploration #5:  Analysing a Work of Art                                                                                            
Dan Clarke
ENGL 100-15
April 11, 2012


The House of a Madman
A Look At Vincent Price’s Portrayal of Roderic Usher

It was a warm summer day. I was 8 years old. It was the grand opening of Rainbow Crafts, a tiny one room artisan shop in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. My mom had spent a lifetime dreaming of owning her own craft shop, and after many years of planning that day had come. There were balloons and cake, and me and my 7 year old cousin, Mike dressed as circus clowns, standing outside to greet the tourists as they came through the door.

In the back room of the shop, in the far corner behind the giant antique glass topped desk, was a little black and white, 10 inch screen television. I don’t think color TVs had been invented yet, if they had it would be another five years or so before we would have one. After a long morning of standing outside greeting strangers, me and Mike headed to the back room for a break, and for us a break could only mean one thing: Sci-Fi Theater on Cinema-6 and its all day Vincent Price Movie Marathon. We spent the rest of the day and long into the night, glued to the front of that tiny black and white screen, eating JiffyPop and being terrorized out of minds by the king of the B-movie, the Prince of Terror, the greatest horror actor to ever live. Funny, looking back today, I wonder how anybody was ever terrified of any of the old 1960’s movies.

Among the many movies we saw that day, was the one which would forever change the course of my life: House of Usher, based on Edgar Alan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”. It was Vincent Price's first of many Edgar Allan Poe movies. The first of his low budget, fast filmed movies, House of Usher was created and filmed in a record breaking 16 days. The set and costumes from this film would go on to be reused over and over again in most of Price's films throughout the rest of the 1960's, allowing him to make 4 or 5 movies in each of the years to follow.[1.]

Before House of Usher, Price had never starred in a leading role. He was a Shakespearean stage actor who dabbled as a minor character in a few dozen Gothic romances, historical dramas, and who-done-it murder mysteries, often in roles with almost no speaking parts and barely a few minutes of screen time. In many of his earliest films, his parts were so small, that he wasn’t even billed in the credits. The Fly and House on Haunted Hill were the first large parts he had, though not the star in either, it did give him a small fan following and a small start in the direction of horror. He was reviewed as an actor to watch for in roles comparable to Clark Gable, predicted to be the next “hot star” of romance movies, of which there were several lined up for him to star in.

Vincent Price’s career to stardom had started, only to shattered weeks later when he, like so many other actors of the 1950’s, was blacklisted during the Hollywood Communism Trails. Though found innocent of the charges of communism, the trail had destroyed his acting career. All offers to star in big movies were pulled off the table and Price found himself back on stage in small amateur theaters, with no hope of ever being a film star.

Director Roger Corman changed Price’s dim fate, when he decided to do something no one had ever done before: film stage plays as movies. Corman’s goal was to take every story Edgar Alan Poe wrote, turn them into plays, and turn those plays into movies, and House of Usher was the first in the series. House of Usher became the standard from which Price would set the acting style he was most famous for: Gothic Aghast Horror, with an over dramatic, over theatrical artsy flare. House of Usher was the turning point that would lay down the foundation of Price’s career and set him out apart one of horror's great icons, soon to become the star of 91 low budget, underground B-movies.

In House of Usher, Price plays Roderic Usher, the last in the line of the wealthy Usher family. A pure blooded incestuous family cursed with ill health and short life. Generations of madness and murder have haunted the Usher family and all of it took place in the family castle: The House of Usher. Roderic believes the house to be alive, possessed, and hell bent on killing him. Believing himself possessed by his house, he lives alone, tormented by the doom that awaits him, waiting to be killed by his house. Roderic’s sister, Madeline, was traveling abroad and returned to say that she shall marry and never return to him, his house, or his madness. Roderic cannot allow this; he cannot allow the family curse to spread and so devises a plot to bury his sister alive. But on the eve of her funeral, her soon-to-be-husband, Philip, arrives and discovers that all is not well in this house of insanity. Phillip attempts to put an end to Roderic's madness, but the house takes actions into its own hands and tries to kill them all.

Vincent Price had a way of drawing me into his movies with his silky, theatrical monologues. With Roderic Usher we see more monologues in any other film. One part of the movie stuck with me, forever etched in my mind: the scene between Roderic and Philip, when Roderic spends nearly 20 minutes of the movie in overly dramatic, breathless, single character monologue, describing the atrocities that had been committed in this house. The scene ends with:

Roderic: This House, than it seems normal to you?
Philip: The House is neither normal nor abnormal. It is just a house.
Roderic: You are very wrong, Mr. Winthrop! This House is centuries old. It was brought here from England and with it every evil rooted in its stones...
Philip: You really believe this?
Roderic: Evil is not just a word! It is a reality. Like any living thing it can be created and was created by these people... The history of the Ushers is a savage history of degradation and always in this house! Always! IN THIS HOUSE! The evil which fills it is no illusion. For hundreds of years foul thoughts and foul deeds have been committed in these walls. The House itself is evil now.
Philip: I do not believe it.
Roderic: Mr. Winthrop, do you think those coals jumping out of the fire at you was an accident? Do you think that chandelier falling was an accident? Do you think that falling casket was an accident?
Philip: Are you trying to tell me that the House made those things happen?
Roderic: Yes.
Philip: You are mad! I will not listen to you! ... Is there no end to your horrors?
Roderic: No.[2.]

House of Usher is so unlike any other movie. There are no special effects, no attempt at realism. The scenery is clearly painted cardboard. The props are comparable to what you’d find in a high school play. The costumes are simply everyday clothes touched up to look historical. The makeup, is far too heavy for film and what you’d expect to see at a live opera. It was exactly what it promised: a stage play, filmed and shown in theaters as a movie. And yet, it still stands as one of the creepiest horror movies of it’s time. This movie stuck with me, because it was so very different, and because, it had a single character, who though mentioned in every line and seen in every scene, never says a word or does a thing: The House. The House itself is treated as though she is the main character of the movie, with every one tiptoeing around quietly whispering their lines, for fear that the House may overhear their words and strike them down dead.

The movie is somewhat different from the book it was based upon. The movie was made in the 1960’s an era, noted for its liberal freedoms, but still not liberal enough to film the movie of this dark scandalous story as it had originally been written by Poe. In the book, brother and sister were also husband and wife, as well as psychically connected identical twins, there was no boyfriend/lover trying desperately to rescue the girl, and while Roderic was morbidly depressed and obsessed with his cursed house’s attempts to kill him, his sister-wife was a raving lunatic who did kill him before killing herself. The story, as artsy and amateurish as the movie based on it, was barely 3 pages long, has no real beginning, doesn’t really end, and spends nearly the entire course of its text describing the gloomy furnishings of Roderic’s bed chambers, spending an inordinate amount of time focused on the curtains. It reads like it belongs in a home furnishing magazine, and yet, every word fills you with shivers and tingles down the spine. Many people find House of Usher difficult to read as Poe had originally written it, due to the fact that it was one huge 3 page long run-on sentence. Thus explaining Price’s take on it, to ramble in endless breathless monologue throughout the film. Most copies of the story published today are cut into paragraphs and sentences for ease of reading.

The day of the Vincent Price Movie Marathon, came and went, leaving two small children terrified to set foot in the back room of my mom’s shop after dark, for many years to follow. Neither of us could sleep for days, and the weeks (and years) that followed were spent waking up screaming in terror  of the nightmares that now tormented our young brains. I took to sleeping during the day and not turning out the lights at night, terrified of faceless, one handed men, people melting in fires, mad men with giant axes, I had developed a fear of magicians and big old houses, and refused to close doors of any room, for fear the faceless man was hiding behind it to get me. Oh Vincent Price left quite an impression on me! We had watched ten or twelve movies straight though, with no advertisement breaks. At the time it was like we had watched one really long movie, so for many years, I did not know the names of the movies and my memories of them had melded together to remember them as one movie. This had a dramatic effect on me though.  I wanted to be an author I had no idea what exactly I wanted to write The Vincent Price Movie Marathon, decided for me what I would become destined to write: The Twighlight Manor series. I had no idea the existence of the man soon to become my favorite author: Edgar Alan Poe.

The first volume of The Twighlight Manor series was published only a few years after the movie marathon day. Today 31 years and 200+ short story/volumes later, I still write the stories of Roderic Swanzen, a white haired, faceless, hook handed man obsessed with a long dead wife and living in mortal terror of his blood thirsty mansion, The Twighlight Manor. Readers always asked me where I get my ideas for this alarming,  disturbing, and very banned M-rated series. For many years my answer was, “I do not know, I just have all of these vivid memories of the madman and his house in my head, so I write them down. I have to write them down, otherwise they’ll haunt me in my sleep. I can’t get these nightmares out of my head, I can’t sleep at night because this guy is running around in my head, so I might as well write about him.” The nightmares of Roderic and his house still possess my dreams to this day.

For years I remained clueless. The memories of children are fleeting. I remembered the day. I remembered the event. But I did not remember the movies. The days of VHS and DVDs were long off, and with no memory of the exact details of the movies we had seen that day, (only daily nightmares depriving me of much needed sleep) I had no way of tracing them. My only knowledge was that the name of the actor had been Vincent Price. As the years got farther away my memory of the day had become simply, a memory of watching Vincent Price movies and no memory of the movies themselves.

It would be another 15 years before I would discover a book which would stun me, and unlock the mystery of the madman who haunted my nightmares. As a book collector, I could not pass up the huge navy blue leather bound book, titled: The Complete Tales of Edgar Alan Poe. Poe was a writer I had long heard of, but had never read. I began reading the stories and one by one the pieces started falling together: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Black Cat...I knew these stories...I had never read them, and yet I had very vivid memories of them, but more than that, I could see them acted out, as though I had been there. But it wasn’t just memories of these stories, for here were the very stories which nightly ran rampant through my nightmares, since childhood. And then I read it: The Fall of The House of Usher, the story of a madman named Roderic obsessed with a house hell bent on killing him. It stunned me, that 200 years ago, there had been written a story, nearly identical to the series had had now been writing for 15 years, a series written based on nightmares I could not identify the cause of. The similarities were uncanny, the names, the dates, the places, the settings, and then there was the character of Roderic and the house itself, they were all so close to the same. I knew there must be a connection. I knew that somehow, somewhere, some time, someplace I had to have read this story before, but I had no memory of having done so, and it did not explain the fact that I could very clearly see this man, I knew what he looked like, I knew his voice, how he acted, how he talked, reading the story could not explain these things.

Than in the early 1990s MGM announced that for the first time they are going to release all of their Vincent Price movies on VHS. Nearly 20 years had passed since the last time I had heard that name: Vincent Price, the man who had scared me and my cousin silly all those years ago. I knew this was the key to unlocking the nighmares that plauged my sleep. This man had been the cause of it, and now I had the chance to watch those movies again, for the first time in 20 years. I went out, bought every video, and watched them all in one day, in a near recreation of that day so many years ago. That’s when the connection was suddenly made clear: It wasn’t the book I was remembering and retelling in the stories I wrote, it was the movies. A whole series of movies based on Edgar Alan Poe stories, all of them starring Vincent Price. Though I had not remembered them, nor their names, I had remembered details from them, but somehow had not remembered them in connection to the movies I had seen. This however was the beginning of an obsession to hunt down and watch every movie Vincent Price had ever made: all 91 of them.

Today I doubt there’s a Vincent Price movie I have not seen, and I’ve read every version of everything Edgar Alan Poe ever wrote. My favorite actor and my favorite author. I wonder, had it not been for Vincent Price, would I have ever loved Edgar Alan Poe? And had it not been for Edgar Alan Poe, would I have ever loved Vincent Price? Or more to the point, I wonder how my life would have been different, had me and my cousin not spent that summer day so long ago, watching Edgar Alan Poe movies starring Vincent Price? Would I still have become an author? Would I have still chosen to write horror? It was seemingly an insignificant event, and yet had we not watched those movies that day, so many things in my life today would be so very different than from how they turned out.


        



Bibliography:



House of Usher. Dir. Roger Corman. Perf. Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey, Harry Ellerbe. MGM Studios. 1960. DVD 2005  [2., Fig 1., Fig 2.]

Meikle, Denis. Vincent Price: The Art of Fear. 3rd ed. Kew Gardens: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2004. Print [1.]



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This post was written by Wendy C Allen aka EelKat, is copyrighted by The Twighlight Manor Press and was posted on Houseless Living @ http://houselessliving.blogspot.com and reposted at EK's Star Log @ http://eelkat.wordpress.com and parts of it may also be seen on http://www.squidoo.com/EelKat and http://laughinggnomehollow.proboards.com  If you are reading this from a different location than those listed above, please contact me Wendy C. Allen aka EelKat @ http://laughinggnomehollow.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=viewprofile and let me know where it is you found this post. Plagiarism is illegal and I DO actively pursue offenders. Unless copying a Blog Meme, you do not have permission to copy anything appearing on this blog, including words, art, or photos. This will be your only warning. Thank you and have a glorious day! ~ EelKat



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