Usher

Dinner Party at the House of Usher: Renate Druks, Ruth-Ellen Taylor, Zeena, Curtis Harrington, Sean Nepita, Robert Mundy and Nikolas Schreck. Dinner Party at the House of Usher: Renate Druks, Ruth-Ellen Taylor, Zeena, Curtis Harrington, Sean Nepita, Robert Mundy and Nikolas Schreck. Directed by Curtis Harrington

Nikolas Schreck appears as Father Hubbard, the Usher family’s priest and confessor in Curtis Harrington’s final film.

Curtis Harrington’s casting of Nikolas and Zeena Schreck in his updated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ”Fall of the House of Usher” is in keeping with the magical thread that runs through the film-maker’s career.

One of Harrington’s mentors was avant-garde film pioneer Maya Deren, an initiated voodoo priestess. Harrington appeared in his erstwhile colleague Kenneth Anger’s occult opus Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome which also featured Cameron Parsons, ”Scarlet Woman” of rocket engineer and magician John Whiteside Parsons.


Cameron’s magical art was the subject of Harrington’s documentary The Wormwood Star, and he also cast her in his first feature film Night Tide, which starred Dennis Hopper, a friend of Jay Sebring’s who later met Charles Manson in jail to discuss playing him in a proposed 1970 biopic.

Harrington introduced Kenneth Anger to the work of Aleister Crowley, an event described in Nikolas Schreck’s book The Satanic Screen. Inauguration was filmed at the home of Nikolas and Zeena’s mutual friend, the self-described ”male witch” Samson De Brier.

The making of Usher was an entirely self-financed, labor of love production on Harrington's part. He viewed it as a return to his roots. Part of the financing for the film came via the Schrecks’ brokering of the sale of Harrington’s signed copy of Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, which Harrington acquired from Crowley’s disciple Jane Wolfe.

 


Filming in the Angeles Rosedale Cemetery of was arranged by Zeena through connections she had working at many Los Angeles mortuaries as bereavement counselor. To complete the on-location filming requirements Harrington needed the necessary insurance graciously provided by his long-time colleague and former patron Roger Corman, who directed the most well-known  version of ”The Fall of the House of Usher”. Zeena recommended Rosedale Cemetery to Harrington because it's one of the oldest and most atmospheric cemeteries in Los Angeles.

An additional occult connection was that Maria Rasputin, daughter of the notorious "Mad Monk" Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, is interred at that cemetery. These were the sorts of details Harrington loved to work into the background of his films. The coffin seen in the funeral procession and antique Victrola case in the party scene were also provided by Zeena. She had recently acquired them as part of her inheritance from the notorious Black House in San Francisco immediately after the clearing out of her deceased father's residence. Harrington requested to "cameo" those artifacts in the scenes.

Usher premiered in the U.S. at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre. The Schrecks appeared at the film’s European premiere at the Munich Film Festival.