For all the paraphernalia on stage – old toy instruments and keyboards, a ravaged piano among other things – the music was loud, repetitious and had little to do with the film. The dialog on screen was lost in a haze of drum licks and strange effects that Benevento was constantly tinkering with on the top of his keyboard. The film got so little respect, it ended up being a gimmick to draw people in to hear their music.
Back in 1989 the US played unpleasant music to flush Manuel Noriega out of hiding in Panama. Perhaps the NSA will find this the perfect music to blanket the Waziristan area where Osama bin Laden is hiding. He’d surrender in less time that it took to screen the film.
What was most annoying was that when the film ended, after perhaps 85 minutes, there was no break, no warning that we were going into a free-form set of additional music and nonsensical addled video clips. And while large segments of the audience sat on their hands patiently waiting for the “bonus” session to wind to its conclusion, there was a steady trickle of people departing despite the dark. There were fans of Benevento there as well, who stayed to the end, though even their applause after each song was not particularly enthusiastic.
In the past, Mass MoCA has combined music and film with great success. Certainly Buster Keaton’s The General with The Alloy Orchestra amply demonstrated that this can be done with brilliance, wit and intelligence. Too bad that was not the case with House of Usher.
It seems that the video with a sampling of their concert has now been removed from YouTube, so you’ll have to just use your imagination.
House of Usher
Starring Vincent Price
Directed by Roger Corman
Live original score by Marco Benevento
Co-Presented by the Williamstown Film Festival and Mass MoCA
Hunter Center, North Adams, MA. One night only. October 22, 2010