After his beautiful young wife Madeleine (Gance) dies from a dreadful, unknown illness, artist Roderick Usher (Debucourt), the last in a doomed family line, paints feverishly in his gloomy, nightmarish mansion to assuage his grief. But is Madeleine really dead?
Epstein's sterling adaptation of the well-known Poe story remains one of the most haunting and visually adventurous horror movies of the silent era. Certainly, the film's expressionistic use of slow-motion techniques and eerie settings owes a lot to the presence of surrealist Luis Buñuel, who served as assistant director. Gance (wife of French director Abel) is radiant, too, even as a shrouded specter. With its lurid, foggy air of mystery and demented otherworldliness, "Usher" is a triumph of the gothic sensibility.