Saturday, 1 August 2015



First off, note the title as it appears on screen. Regardless of what it might say on the packaging or the posters, or even the original short story, it's actually Pit And The Pendulum, not The Pit.... Roger Corman's 1961 adaptation (or more accurately, expansion) of the Edgar Allan Poe story is probably the best entry in his Poe cycle: I've always liked it more than the usual favourites The Masque Of The Red Death and The Fall Of The House Of Usher, and I was never as much of a fan of the more comedic ones like The Raven. Plus it has the magnificent and irreplaceable Vincent Price giving it the Full Thesp, which is always a joy to watch.

Like The Tomb Of Ligeia and House Of Usher, Pit And The Pendulum centres on Price as a tormented, terrified man living in a gloomy old mansion haunted (both him and the mansion) by past horrors. In this instance Nicholas Medina's (Price) beloved wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) has died suddenly; her brother Francis (John Kerr) turns up to find out exactly what happened, and sets in motion a series of events which might be supernatural, or which might be down to Nicholas's refusal to accept her death. But what really happened to her? Was she buried alive? And what is their morbid fascination with the torture chamber left over from the Medina family's Inquisition days?

Inevitably, of course, Francis has to face The Pendulum: one of the most instantly recognisable torture devices which has turned up in everything from one of the Saw sequels to Dario Argento's gloriously bonkers half of Two Evil Eyes but it's probably at its best here as Price cranks up the glorious hamming. The film has always looked great with wonderful castle sets full of secret passages and cobwebs (even though half the scenery is repainted from The Fall Of The House Of Usher), but now it's on Blu it looks even better and richer.

As for the extra features, it's now reaching the point where you feel Arrow should be releasing pretty much everything. This time out there are two commentaries, one from Corman himself and one from Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas, another retrospective Making Of (including the great Barbara Steele) and a curious extra sequence shot afterwards to bunk up the 81-minute running time for television screenings. Plus you also get An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe, a TV special from 1970 in which Vincent Price spectacularly performs a selection of classic Poe tales as monologues, including The Pit And The Pendulum! Honestly, what more could you ask for? It's this sort of bonus material that upgrades a terrific presentation of a pretty good film from a strong recommendation to a near-essential purchase.


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