Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Pit and the Pendulum

Once again I'm stretching the definition of "overlooked" to include a movie that many of you surely have seen already. Some of you probably saw it when it came out. I remember watching previews for it at the Eagle Drive-In, a quarter of a mile up the road from where I lived. But I never watched it until now.

Now, I'm no Edgar Allen Poe expert. Not even close. But it seems to me that the screenplay for THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (which was written by Richard Matheson) borrows elements from several other Poe stories as well as the one from which it gets its title. Englishman Francis Barnard shows up at the Spanish castle of Don Nicholas Molina, who was married to Barnard's late sister. The sister died mysteriously, and Barnard wants to get to the truth, which proves to be a lot more complicated than it appears at first because Matheson keeps throwing in flashbacks and plot twists which culminate in a suspenseful sequence involving the infamous torture device.

It's a smart little movie, creepy for the most part and grisly when it needs to be, and very briskly directed at 80 minutes by Roger Corman. Despite the budget limitations of being an American International Production, it looks good, with a mixture of stark shadows and bright colors. A movie like this really was made to be seen on a drive-in screen. I could almost hear a mosquito buzzing in my ear as I watched it.

Nobody in the cast is very good except Vincent Price as Don Nicholas, but Price is wonderful. He really threw himself wholeheartedly into these parts. I think there are more of those AIP horror films I haven't seen. I'm going to have to look into that. But for now, if you somehow missed THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM like I did, you should give it a try.


Walker Martin said...

Between 1960 and 1965 there were several Vincent Price horror movies connected with Edgar Allen Poe. I saw them as they came out and loved them. I believe they all were directed by Roger Corman:

House of Usher--My favorite
The Masque of Red Death--Great use of colors.
The Haunted Palace--Best adaptation of Lovecraft's Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
The Raven
Tomb of Ligeia
Tales of Terror
Pit and the Pendulum

Bill Crider said...

Like Walker, I saw these as they came out. Their relationship to Poe's work is sometimes tenuous, but they're fun.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Corman is now best known as the guy behind Sharknado (and similar - Megashark vs Giant Octopus etc)

Todd Mason said...

No...not really, Suresh. But perhaps among people who don't know about film culture. Corman's mixed legacy looms large.

Todd Mason said...

And Corman didn't actually have anything directly to do with SHARKNADO...but he's certainly been churning out similar work of late: