19th May2014

‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: John Kerr, Barbara Steel, Vincent Price, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Lynette Bernay, Mary Menzies, Charles Victor | Written by Richard Matheson | Directed by Roger Corman


This week has been a good week for Vincent Price fans and Arrow Video. Not only have we got Theatre of Blood, we now also have Pit and the Pendulum in another steelbook release. The Pit and the Pendulum is the second film in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe series of films (Fall of the House of Usher was first), and although Masque of the Red Death is arguably the better, this is a close second.

The Pit and the Pendulum is actually a very short story with not that much content available to make a full length movie from, so Richard Matheson took some liberties with the story when adapting it for the big screen.  With elements of Fall of the House of Usher and other stories like The Black Cat, Matheson created  the tale of Francis Barnard (John Kerr) travelling to Spain in search of his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steel), only to find she has died.  Her husband Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) appears to be haunted by his wife, and it is soon discovered she may have been buried alive.  Just what is the truth of Elizabeth’s demise, and how is it connected to the torture chamber in the basement which seems to haunt the mind of Medina, as much as the memory of his dead wife?

Growing up I may have been a Hammer fan, but I had a love of the Corman Poe films, especially those starring Vincent Price.  This probably came from the luck of being able to see them on television when a special season of the films was shown.  Price is the perfect villain for the style of horror that Corman pulls from Poe’s stories, there is an element of over acting the performance but he knows to control this to create the madness that many of his characters often suffered.  When Medina descends into insanity and takes on the role of his father as the Spanish Inquisition torturer the change in the character’s demeanour is enough to create an unease in the audience, and the difference between Nicholas before and after his mental break is obvious enough, we can easily tell when the madness has taken over.  The events that have caused this change in character of course are typical of Poe’s literature and follow the themes we are somewhat used to from his stories.  This is why Pit and the Pendulum works so well, that inevitability of madness and of course the pendulum itself working as the vengeance for Medina against the people who have wronged him.

When it comes to the extras that have been included by Arrow Video we have two commentaries, one by Corman himself and another by critic Tim Lucas.  Both are good informative conversations with the audience and work well together to give you a good history of the production as well as an insight into Corman’s style of film making.  It’s also interesting to hear the connections of Corman, Luana Anders and Jack Nicholson.  Both Corman and Tim Lucas go into detail the history Corman has with actors that he chose for his movies, and these are some important names in film history, this shows just how important Roger Corman is to the industry.

The features also include a documentary about the making of The Pit and the Pendulum which includes Barbara Steele talking about her memories of the movie.  It’s interesting to hear her comments on not wanting to be type casted as a horror film star, then simply shrugging it off as if accepting that it happened anyway.  An Evening of Edgar Allen Poe with Vincent Price is also included which is a 52 minutes show featuring Price reading Poe’s classic stories, a must watch.

Arrow Video’s release of The Pit and the Pendulum on Blu-ray, especially with the steelbook release is going to be something that fans of classic horror are already going to have on their must-have list, and quite rightly so.  As always Arrow Video treat these movies with a lot of love, knowing that fans are very grateful for the work that they do. The Pit and the Pendulum is another excellent release which may not be as good as the Theatre of Blood release, but for the fans it’s still a very good release.

The Pit and the Pendulum is available now on Dual Play Blu-ray and Blu-ray Steelbook.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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