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The Pit and the Pendulum [UK] Blu-ray Review

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The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

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There are two reasons to watch this tasty 1961 take on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Pit and the Pendulum from director Roger Corman, the first is the deliciously campy performance by Vincent Price, who towers over the rest of the cast, and the second is the fantastic display of haunted house set typical of American-International.

The low-budget B-movie flick strays far from Poe’s original, opting to mix two stories into one, “The Premature Burial” and, once we reach the finale, “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Francis Barnard (John Kerr) travels to Medina, Spain to enquire about his sister’s mysterious death. There he finds Nicholas Medina (Price) son of the infamous Spanish inquisitor who was married to his sister. Nicholas is slowly going mad, convinced that he is hearing his dead wife, that he, in fact, buried his wife alive. The truth may be an even more insidious deception concocted by Nicholas’ fried, Dr. Leon (Anthony Carbone) and a most unlikely co-conspirator. Eventually the madness drives Nicholas so far as to believe that he, himself, is his father, culminating in a finale that sees him strapping his brother-in-law Francis down as one of his father’s torture devices, a huge steel pendulum slowly descends on him.

Corman makes the most of the meager budget, patchwork script and less-than top-notch acting jobs of the majority of the cast, to give a richly chilling and visually stimulating “haunted castle” Gothic production, not unlike the films of Mario Bava. Although Vincent Price’s performance eclipses everyone else’s, it doesn’t matter, because the clear focus is on his towering performances a man driven mad by a great beauty, and the gorgeous set.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

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The Pit and the Pendulum has just an average AVC 1080p transfer from Arrow that looks soft and does suffer from spotty source damage and somewhat of a coarse layer of grain. Shadows look tinge murky as do much of the darker shades in the image, like the lavish costumes much of the characters are wearing, which makes it difficult to make out the detail in the stitching and so forth.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

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The monaural soundtrack in included in LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit). It provides a clear enough amount of dialogue and score, but is a little boxy.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

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  • Commentary with Roger Corman
  • Commentary with Tim Lucas
  • The Story Behind The Swinging Blade (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:43:07) – Filmed exclusively for Arrow Video in 2013, this documentary looks at the making of The Pit and the Pendulum and features producer and director Roger Corman, star Barbara Steele, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price and more.
  • An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:53:07) – Made for television in 1970, this programme features Vincent Price narrating four of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular stories before a live audience. The stories featured are “The Tell Tale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”.
  • Added Television Sequence (1968) (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:04) – When sold for television in 1968, the film was too short for the required two hour time slot, so additional footage was shot by Corman’s assistant Tamara Asseyev. This footage features Luana Anders who was the only cast member available at the time.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:30)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

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Deliciously campy Gothic horror with a classically towering performance from Vincent Price, this is Roger Corman directing at the height of his talents, far from his days of producing such “heady” television cheese like Sharktopus or Camel Spiders.

Additional Screen Captures

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