House of Usher (1960): Vincent Price and Mark Damon.
This post ought to have followed the one in January about the sinister portraits glimpsed in Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires. I still don’t know who was responsible for those paintings but the artist who created the equally outré family portraits in Roger Corman’s House of Usher (1960) was credited for his work. Burt Shonberg (1933–1977) was a friend of Corman’s who had to produce the six portraits at speed (the entire film was shot in fifteen days) so the results are sketchier than they might have been in a production with a bigger budget. I always liked the anachronism of these pictures, the way they look very much of their time; the effect is a jarring one that adds a note of much-needed strangeness to Corman’s otherwise sparse interiors.
Shonberg was a curious artist, the gallery page on his website shows a progression from Picasso-style early works in the 1950s to his own brand of mystical psychedelia. Some of his paintings from around the time of House of Usher have that stained-glass fragmentation one finds in the work of Leo & Diane Dillon from the same period. Shonberg’s biography says Corman used more paintings in The Premature Burial (1962) but I don’t have a copy of that to hand and haven’t found any examples. There’s also the detail that Shonberg was involved for a while with Marjorie Cameron, herself an artist who appeared as the mysterious “Water Witch” in another AIP production, Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide, a year after House of Usher.