Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pit And The Pendulum (1961)

Another adaptation of some classic Edgar Allan Poe by Roger Corman, and once again starring the magnificent Vincent Price, Pit And The Pendulum is an atmospheric and macabre slice of entertainment, as you would expect considering the people involved.

Price plays Nicholas Medina, a man who has recently lost his wife (Barbara Steele). When her brother (John Kerr) comes to visit, in an attempt to figure out just what really happened, it soon becomes clear that Nicholas is hiding something. But is it something sinister, or is it a past tragedy that has haunted him, and also his sister (Luana Anders), for many years? Perhaps the family doctor (Antony Carbone) can help.

From the cast members (Steele and Anders, at any rate) to the set design to the colour scheme used, Pit And The Pendulum is a gorgeous film, almost as rich and satisfying as The Masque Of The Red Death, a film with many obvious similarities to this one.

The script by Richard Matheson may not stick as rigidly to the material by Poe as purists might like, but it maintains the essence of his work and leads to a finale that feels exactly as it should, in terms of potential terror and nastiness.

Corman directs with confidence, making the most out of a few set-pieces and allowing himself room for some nice artistic flourishes. It's the kind of work that may make fans regret the path that his career took, after he saw how the dollar was easier to get a hold without any qualms about artistic integrity. I'm not knocking the man for the choice that he made, and the many careers that he's helped launch, but I AM sad that only a few of his movies seem to show what he was really capable of.

Price is on his usual top form, gracious and possibly hiding madness behind that charming smile, while Kerr and Carbone pitch their performances just perfectly, playing more level-headed characters without ever being overshadowed by that magnificent central performance. Anders is a ray of loveliness in a rather dark and dire environment, and Steele is given another role that makes the most of her haunting beauty.

Superior horror entertainment from start to finish, and what a finish it is, Pit And The Pendulum is a film that every self-respecting fan of the genre should see. And then buy. And then see again and again.


The Arrow edition, however, is the way to go -

Don't forget to help me to convince my wife that movie reviews aren't a complete waste of my time and energy whenever you're visiting Amazon. My book is available there.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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