The Pit and the Pendulum. Film Review

DIRECTOR: Roger Corman
SCREENPLAY: Richard Matheson (form the story by Edgar Allan Poe)
STARRING: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders
FORMAT: Standard Blu-ray/Limited Edition Steelbook
Reviewed by Guy Adams

Roger Corman, America’s King of Low-Budget Cinema, is justifiably renowned for his string of colourful, deceptively sumptuous Poe adaptations. Star vehicles for Vincent Price, they were the fog-wreathed, cobweb-laced American cousins of Hammer’s Gothic productions and, most importantly, damn good fun.

PIT AND THE PENDULUM is the second of the run, following on after the success of HOUSE OF USHER (released by Arrow on Blu-ray last year), Corman set writer, Richard Matheson, the challenge of turning Poe’s brief original story into a screenplay. Poe’s pendulous tale became the final act. Price looming through the frames, that voice, like an aged cat purring prayers to Satan, the port in the bitter lemon of a tale of infidelity, premature burial and ancient torture instruments.

Watching the movie now is a glorious combination of comfort and grotesque, like rolling in velvet pillows filled with corpse meat. It’s so beautifully shot, so vibrant, so damned fruity but has managed to hold onto to a little of its bite even as sensibilities have shifted over the decades.

Extras include a new documentary on the making of the film, with Barbara Steele (who sparkles even now, like a cheeky raven) and Corman being the star contributors; two commentaries, one from Corman and one from Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas; an isolated music and effects track and, perhaps most importantly AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE WITH VINCENT PRICE, the American TV special where Price performs a selection of tales in front of a live audience.

A predictably superb presentation of a deeply enjoyable movie.