A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


My Scary Girls Weren't Scared
Saturday, December 12, 2009

In the compression of memory that might just be its normal course, as one gets old, is my memory of two films I saw in 1960. One of them was supposed to be my first dirty movie and I dragged my roommates from the Catholic boarding school St. Edward's in Austin, Texas. In spite of its title, The Virgin Spring was not a “dirty” movie but the first Ingmar Bergman film I saw. The other film was The House of Usher, shortened from Edgar Allan Poe's story title, The Fall of the House of Usher. As I sat in the little movie house on Congress Avenue I could never have suspected that I would one day photograph both its star, Vincent Price and its noted producer Samuel Z. Arkoff.

In my memory was the vision of Vincent Price (as Roderick Usher) playing a harpsichord. The other vision was of Technicolor blood oozing from the walls. I was 18 years old and the film scared me. It had to. It left that lasting impression considering that I went to the movies much more then. Yet I only remember those two, the dirty film that wasn't and The House of Usher.

Last week I read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial after lunch to Rosemary and Rebecca. They both hated it. Rebecca tried to stop me, telling me that if I persisted she was going to pull out her hair. This she did, to my astonishment. I did not think it appropriate to quote Poe, "Should you ever be drowned or hung, be sure and make a note of your sensations." Rebecca objected to all the words she did not know the meaning of but left the table knowing three facts:

1. Edgar Allan Poe was American.
2. He was an author.
3. He was born in 1809.

I think that is pretty good. Chatting recently with two Canadian men, one is 27 and the other in his late 30s I was incredulous that both did not know who Robert E. Lee was. But as memory of the distant past recedes to be replaced by memories of a not so distant past, I think I understand.

Because Rebecca was so against the work of Edgar Allan Poe I decided on the tack of hitting again but from an ancillary quarter, the film. I must report that the girls enjoyed the movie, Vincent Price played a lute and did not play a harpsichord. Rebecca pointed out, “Papi there was no blood oozing from the walls.” In what was supposed to be one of the scariest parts of the movie, Rebecca tried to block Lauren's vision. She became very angry and shouted, “I want to see this.”

Neither girls found the film scary at all.

4. Rebecca knows more about catalepsy than your average 12-year-old.

...and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "House of Usher".
The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe, September 1839

A Gap in Poe's life


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