Sunday, October 27, 2013

REVIEW: The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum
Director: Roger Corman
Year 1961

The Pit and the Pendulum is a gothically infused classic, headlined by the master of the genre Vincent Price. Affectionately directed by the king of the B-movies himself Roger Corman, this demented little gem fosters a tremendous amount of atmosphere and mood as it slowly unwinds a most twisted of tales. Classically portrayed and outstandingly performed, The Pit and the Pendulum is a wild mystery driven horror film which only seems to get better with age.

The film follows London resident Francis Barnard as he travels to Spain to investigate the mysterious death of his sister Elizabeth at her former home in Medina castle. Upon arrival he is met by the lord of the estate, Nicholas Medina, and his sister Catherine. Immediately he senses that not everything is as it seems, as slowly the truth begins to reveal itself on the strange circumstances that led to Elizabeth's bizarre death. Who is to blame for the twisted demise of his sister and what is the unsettling secret hidden behind the storied history of Medina castle?

The legend of the screen Vincent Price takes on the role of Don Medina, the now widowed husband of a dead bride. Haunted and heartbroken, Price does an excellent job in bringing the tragic character of Nicholas Medina to life. His woeful manner and melodramatic mannerisms speak volumes within this theatrical like cinematic world. His performance hangs heavy on the movie, producing a sour atmosphere that is wholly affective in infecting the entire production in its dire and foreboding mood. The visual depiction of depression, Price milks the screen for all its worth, taking ample time in showing us just why he is the undisputed king of the horror genre. With sympathy and a tremendous dose of talent, he sways our hearts and captures our imagination while headlining this most wondrous of gothic tales.

John Kerr takes up the task of playing the suspicious and truth-seeking brother, Francis Barnard, who is determined to find the real reason behind his sister's death. Kerr is admirable in the role, injecting enough hard-nosed talent and hero-esque qualities into the mix to make for a formidable presence in the film. Luana Anders also does a great job in making her presence known, as the soft spoken sister of the troubled Don Medina. Extremely sympathetic and completely wholesome, Anders sells the validity of the character. Another respectable addition to the cast is Antony Carbone as Doctor Charles Leon. He plays both a trustworthy and loathsome sided character, as we are privy to his manipulative nature and opportunistic plans. The duality of his role is rather interesting and Carbone does a fine job with the task. Lastly is the horror icon Barbara Steele who plays a small role in the production as Elizabeth Medina. Central to the plot of the film, Steele does a miraculous job projecting that otherworldly, ghostlike presence. A tone that is so important to the overall atmosphere of the film. Her short-lived appearance in the movie works wonders, and she looks as beautiful as ever.

As for the look and feel of The Pit and the Pendulum, everything is top notch in its gothic debauchery. Cold dark corridors, candle lit rooms, and secret foreboding passageways, are all contained within a fog covered castle on the cliffs of a roaring ocean. It's as gothic as they come and director Roger Corman makes great efforts in gifting us with enough moody imagery that it takes on a life of its own. Focused discerningly on telling a most mysterious ghost story, Corman administers a heavy dose of cryptic settings, lavish locations, and extremely unsettling scenarios to tell his twisted tale of revenge, murder, and above all deception. It's a classic mystery set-up with a wild payoff, and Corman knows exactly how to pull you in to the fray.

The added history of the castle and the ultimately intoxicating look of the expansive estate and its inner trappings are delightfully laid out before our eyes in bold splendor. In interesting fashion, Corman abruptly and frequently splashes color across a few sequences of the film, serving up wild portions of eye candy that truly delight. The change of saturation from the mostly muted colors helps to emphasis the wild schizophrenic nature that the film inflicts on the viewer. As we delve into the madness of the Medina family and figure out their long lost secrets and sordid past, we are greeted by flashes of fluorescent hues and vividly brash colors, which function to enhance the moment and add to the emotional impact of the sequence. This all eventually gels perfectly with the climactic finish that is both heart-racing and tense as the titular pendulum finally comes into play and we see how truly demented the film is underneath. This device is a cinematic wonder, and the tension that builds up during the final sequence of the film is quite powerful. All in all, The Pit and the Pendulum is a fantastically atmospheric gem that truly stands the test of time.

The Pit and the Pendulum is a wickedly fun ride full of mystery, murder, and an abundance of intrigue. Lensed in that gothic style that truly revels in heavy atmosphere and morbid tone, this unique and stylish gem is without a doubt a real winner. Focused on telling an unsettling ghost story with a few twists, the narrative slowly begins to unravel revealing revelation after revelation, until we are met with a most unusual and unexpected conclusion that genuinely comes out of left field.

Performed with great urgency and expressive flair, the cast does an exceptionally good job, specifically Vincent Price as the overtly melancholy and extremely disturbed Don Medina. In true noteworthy fashion, Price defines the mood of the production, never letting go for a second as he steals the limelight from the cast and truly owns the film. Supported by exceptionally realized sets and outstandingly vivid locations, The Pit and the Pendulum is an obsessively moody piece that never drops the ball as it tells its haunted tale of lost love, deadly regrets, and deceitful truths. This flick is made for October viewing and it will generate the perfect amount of atmosphere for a devilishly great Halloween night. Classic in all aspects of the word, this is one horror film that is.....

Couldn't you have dropped me off a little closer to the castle asshole?

I apologize for the hat in advance.

Don't break wind in Vincent Price's castle.

Even in portrait form, Vincent Price is badass!

Take it easy there you poll hugging freak.

What the hell are you looking at?

Just put the ascot on you ass!

Vincent Price is a cry baby.

Gothic Staring Contest..... GO!

Are you trying to get crazy with Vincent? Don't you know he's loco!

Peek a boo you fucks you!

Oh take it easy you big baby!

How about a little off the top?

Let me out of here! I have to go we we!

Watch that first step.... It's a doozy!

Barbara Steele is one hot iron maiden!

No comments:

Post a Comment