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[BONUS] The Fall of the House of Usher

The Netflix series The Fall of the House of Usher (2023) is based on works by Edgar Allan Poe. Brook and Sarah discuss the show and interpretation of Poe’s work. This is another example of what members of the Clued in Cartel can expect as bonus content. To join the waitlist, visit https://cluedinmystery.com/clued-in-cartel/.

Mentioned in this episode

The Fall of the House of Usher (2023) Netflix

The Haunting of Hill House (2018) Netflix

The Haunting of Hill House (1959) Shirley Jackson

“The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839) Edgar Allan Poe

“Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) Edgar Allan Poe

“Black Cat” (1843) Edgar Allan Poe

“The Telltale Heart” (1843) Edgar Allan Poe

“Edgar Allan Poe” (2022) Clued in Mystery

Lupin (2021-2023) Netflix

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to a Clued In bonus episode. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery.
SarahHi Brook.
BrookAnd I’m Hi Sarah this is so much fun to be doing another bonus episode.
SarahI know so if you’re a regular listener, you know that Brook is a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. He was one of the first author profiles that we recorded and we talked about his role in shaping the detective fiction genre of mystery with his stories featuring C Auguste Dupin. So when Netflix released a limited series based on Poe’s work called The Fall of the House of Usher we had to watch. And today we will share our thoughts in a bonus episode. This is another example of content that members of the Clued in Cartel will receive. They’ll also be invited to quarterly live sessions with us, receive early access to and provide input on chapters of a book that we’re planning to co-write as we write it, and more. The Clued in Cartel will be available in early 2024 and you can join the waitlist on our website at cluedinmystery.com/cluedincartel Before we start, just a quick warning that we are going to discuss the episodes in some detail and there may be some spoilers. And the series is pretty graphic. So, it’s not for the squeamish. It’s definitely more horror than mystery and, Brook, maybe we should start there. Do you think that this is a horror with elements of mystery or a mystery with elements of horror?
BrookI definitely feel like horror with elements of mystery. And you know if we look at the post stories that this is based on, it’s gothic horror. So, I think we definitely have to categorize it this way. And then in another layer to it, it’s Mike Flanagan who, if people are familiar with his other Netflix shows, also fall in the category of horror.
SarahAnd so just on that, I think this is the, I don’t know, is it the second or the third maybe that Mike Flanagan has done that’s on Netflix. And I didn’t see the other ones but my understanding is that it was treated in a similar way where he took the original source material and developed a show that was inspired by, rather than based on that that source material.
BrookYeah, so the first one of these that I watched, and I think we’ve talked about this before, Sarah that I tend to watch more horror end of things than you. Um, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve seen the other ones. The Haunting of Hill House so this is a Shirley Jackson story and um I was disappointed because another thing that I’ve mentioned before is that I’m such a purist right? I want a story to I just want a screen version of the story or the book. And it’s just a personality thing with me so when I first watched The Haunting of Hill House I was disappointed because it is exactly what you say, very based on you’ve got names of characters that are in that story but the storyline is different and extrapolated I guess. But that’s clearly what he’s then done here with The Fall of the House of Usher. So were you surprised Sarah so you hear “The Fall of the House of Usher” you you know the story. You’ve read the story and then episode one. It’s like wait. This is like not “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This is an Edgar Allan Poe universe.
SarahThat’s a really good way of describing it because it’s modern. It’s set in present day right rather than in the 1830s when Poe wrote the original. And it was it very much felt like a Poe universe rather than a retelling of that of that story. And I’m you know I think I’m a much more casual Poe fan than you are.
SarahBut I still appreciated the Easter eggs and the references to Poe’s work. You know the name of the lawyer is Dupin that Rodrick Usher is telling this story to. Um, and so he’s not. . . I guess he does a little bit of investigating in in some parts. You know when they’re showing flashbacks to when they first met. Um, but yeah it is definitely. It’s a a universe rather than a retelling.
BrookYeah, and the big bad guy is Rufus Griswold, which in some of our other Poe episodes we’ve discussed is Edgar Allan Poe’s real-life rival, who wrote the obituary for him that pretty much casts Edgar Allan Poe in this alcoholic, melancholy bad light that may or may not be entirely true. But then he becomes the big bad in this series. So, I had to tip my hat because you know I feel like I’m a Edgar Allan Poe fan but my goodness Mike Flanagan and his team are experts because they were just able to pack as you say little Easter eggs all over the place. And you know, you’d hear a name and I’d think oh my gosh. So I’d have to you know, look back through things but like okay now which poem or which story is that from and like ah genius the way that they ah worked it into the story and and then what that name represents in the story. I thought it was just really well done.
SarahReally really clever like the name of I was going to call it the science factory but the facility ah the medical facility is um Rue right? A reference to “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, which is one of the Dupin stories.
BrookYeah, yeah, it’s just so great and each episode of this—is it 8 I believe to tell the entire story—are all ah either Poe stories most of them are post stories I believe um. First episode is “A Midnight Dreary”. So um, it just as excuse me yes, as the titles of each episode. Um and then I think that each episode in a sense tells that short story or that poem’s ah you know story arc.
BrookUm, it’s again, an adaptation and extrapolation of it. But it tells that story, so very cool.
SarahYeah, yeah, you I mean you can see the connection, right? Between whatever that the episode title is and what happens in that in that episode and you can see where that inspiration came from. I did think it was really cleverly done. It was a little more gruesome than I typically watch and so there was a lot of me like “well I’m just going to listen to this scene I’m not going to watch it”.
BrookI would say that that was is something that I didn’t like about this way of um, interpreting Poe because yes he wrote gothic horror but most of the creepiness is sort of off off page or imaginary. You know you don’t see blood and guts necessarily you have the threat of it but that is more scary actually than actually seeing like the blood covered man.
BrookSo in my opinion they leaned a little bit too much into you know, gory and maybe raunchy than they needed to but I also have to remember that this is 2023 Netflix so there is some expectation of of that as well, so.
SarahI liked that um that it was filmed here in Vancouver. Ah I you know so and I realized that in the first episode one of the opening scenes when Rodrick Usher is outside the church after the last kind of round of funerals. And he collapses and then it’s like “oh I know that place”. Um and you know so the church that they used is is one that’s downtown Vancouver and then I think in another episode I recognized some of the exterior shots as places that that I’ve seen. And I sent you some street art that I said oh this was in the show. So I really liked that.
BrookI was so excited when you said that to me I was like completely fan girling like are you kidding me? That’s so cool.
SarahYeah, yeah, so I thought if I was a bigger fan I probably would you know I could recreate the the scene with Rodrick Usher on the ground in front of the church I could get I don’t know if I could rope my husband into taking a picture of me. But I’m not quite there yet so, I don’t think I’ll do that.
BrookBut okay, that’s fair. That’s fair. One storytelling device that I think they did really well that Poe would really appreciate is that throughout this story we find out that Roderick Usher is um, he’s dying. He’s sick. So his grip on reality is fading. And we don’t know what is real and what are his hallucinations and I really think that that’s a staple of Poe stories. Where, as the reader we’re wondering if is this narrator lose in it.
BrookI think about in “Black Cat” or “Telltale Heart”. Ah, the story hinges on I guess really an unreliable narrator in the fact that you don’t know what is real and what is ah in their mind. Ah, and we get that in this Netflix adaptation where Roderick Usher is having moments of clarity and then moments of hallucinations. And so I thought that was really a nice tie in for the Poe stories.
SarahI agree I think that’s done really well in these.
BrookI read a review because in this version, the Usher family are pharmaceutical manufacturers and cranking out this very addictive painkiller basically and you know that’s kind of their dark dark thing of the family and in the actual story by Poe, the dark part of the family is incest and so I read a review where this person was being very harsh about bringing in such a maybe. You know, capitalistic kind of contemporary problem that it just didn’t ring true that it didn’t feel like it was a big enough issue and um, you know I really disagree because I think that Flanagan did a great job of keeping incest as part of the story. You know we watch Roderick be the most faithful to Madeline out of anyone in this story. So I think it’s more metaphorical but I do think that there’s some hints of of some literal as well because as teenagers they’re you know, very close Madeline is very jealous of Roderick’s wife in the story. But most importantly, it’s this misplaced devotion I mean he’s married to Madeline and or he’s married to the company and it’s that devotion that brings the whole thing down because that is what ah causes then the the later deaths of his of his kids which you know.
SarahYeah, she really manipulates or sorry she really uses that devotion to get him to continue to go along with her.
SarahSo I I really like this scene where Pym who’s kind of Roderick’s right hand man shows um Roderick and I think Madeline’s in the scene as well. Ah, pictures of this woman Verna with al of these very high profile very powerful, very wealthy and influential people that are people that we are familiar with in in real life and kind of this suggestion that. All of them may have had some kind of interaction with her to achieve that success and you know that kind of had me thinking about like you know that deal with the devil that um, that people may be making and that um. I thought that was really good.
BrookI know I thought that was so good too. It it and it’s that um, it’s that component that we like in a story where if you can bring it into the real world then it makes this fictional world seem you know richer and perhaps more real and it was the deal with the Devil that’s the crux of of the of The Fall of the House of Usher. And it’s great that he made it a beautiful woman because I again I think that’s a very Poe-esque thing to have you know the melancholy the dread. The downfall be a man’s love for a woman. Very Poe.
SarahSo we talked about how this adaptation wasn’t necessarily a faithful adaptation. Um, but this kind of creation of this world drawing on elements from the um from the original material is there anyone else’s work, Brook that you would want to see kind of treated in this way?
BrookThat’s such an interesting question because I think I would have said that I don’t want to see Poe’s work this way. Because like I said I’m I’m a purist you know like I don’t want to see Shirley Jackson’s work that way I don’t want to see. So I have an instant resistance to the idea. But then I really did enjoy it and I think the the thing that I came back to and we’ve talked about this. We talked about this with our with Teresa Peschel when we did Agatha Christie adaptations, we talked about it I believe with chronicles of crime that the value is that it brings new people to the work. And I 100% think that that will happen with this Netflix production because we have this was very great too. We’ve got the titles of the episodes as I said as the short stories. So that’s going to I mean you know you’re going to be able to find these things and perhaps read source material. Um, so I guess I have to relinquish my hold a little bit. Um, so I I don’t think I can choose someone else right now. But. Um, I’m going to start being more open to these kinds of adaptations and hopefully bring new readers to some of the older source materials.
SarahWell I will say that I think um Maurice Le Blanc’s work um Arsene Lupin his sorry his stories about Arsene Lupin the gentleman burglar ah those have already inspired in the series Lupin that is also on Netflix also set in present day and the main character like Arsene Lupin is a you know gentleman thief kind of has this code of ethics that he um that he operates by but uses a lot of the same kinds of devices that um that the original the originals did um and ah you know? Ah I think the same thing this this probably brings new readers to the source my material and makes it more accessible I think as well for for people. So I I don’t mind this kind of thing.
BrookAnd I have to say that if I imagine what Edgar Allan Poe or Shirley Jackson or any of these other authors who’ve had their work. Um Agatha Christie I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be thrilled. To know that people are still enjoying their stories. Um, you know decades and decades later.
SarahUm, well in centuries later for Poe, right? It’s almost 200 years.
BrookIt’s almost 200 years so cool.
SarahThanks Brook I think this was a great conversation.
BrookIt was so fun and as Sarah mentioned this is just another example of the of the kind of things that we would love to pop in and ah provide as bonus episodes for our Clued in Cartel coming up in 2024 and thank you for listening today to Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah and we both love mystery.