Public Radio Exchange, 31 August 2010
This truly scary adaptation of
Poe's classic had the narrator (Kevin Sorbo) beginning the tale in a calm voice as he explained how he visited the eponymous
House of Usher and encountered Roderick (John Billingsley), and his sister Madeline (Bonita Friedericy). The narrator
identified himself as a source of strength, offering succour to Roderick in his hour of need. By contrast Roderick spoke
hysterically, as if affected by some mental condition.
As the tale unfolded, however, the roles were reversed. The narrator became more and
more aware that something hellish was unfolding in the Usher household; he could neither make sense of it nor escape it.
Meanwhile Usher assumed a position of mental domination - it was almost as if he knew what was going to happen, once
Madeline had passed away. Billingsley's neurotic performance - aurally reminiscent of the Thirties Hollywood actor Dwight
Frye - paved the way for the ending, which was truly shocking.
What emerged most tangibly from this production was the idea that good and evil are two sides
of the same coin; both of them lurk within every individual. Poe explores the dark side of human nature, in the knowledge
that everyone, given the chance, might end up behaving like Roderick Usher.