Monday, 13 March 2017

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

"Do you know where you are, Bartolome? I'll tell you where you are. You are about to enter Hell, Bartolome, HELL!... The netherworld. The infernal region, The abode of the Damned... The place of torment. Pandemonium. Abbadon. Tophet. Gehenna. Naraka. The pit... and the pendulum!"

One of the first films I did for this blog was Roger Corman's House of Usher; I didn't expect it to be quite as long until the next one of his Edgar Allan Poe films which happens, coincidentally, to be the second one made. I seem to have accidentally managed to do them in order so far.

This is a far superior film to its predecessor, with the use of a blurred and tinted picture for the flashbacks being a particularly inspired directorial flourish and Vincent Price being superb. Only the very end of the film is faithful to Poe's (very) short story with a plot invented to sound vaguely Poe-like, utilising many of his tropes, not least of which is premature burial. It works, and the plot is superb with a fantastic twist.

This is a profoundly gothic film in which the sins of the past- both before and after the twist- threaten to destroy the well-meaning but helpless present generation with the sheer weight of their evil. In this case it is the tortures of the recent Spanish Inquisition which weigh oppressively on the present, and the acting and superb direction Jane this a genuinely powerful and disturbing film. I'm left to ruminate that gothic horror is fundamentally progressive: it is fascinated by the past but all too aware that bad things happened there.

I was expecting a bit of campy fun with this film but instead, in spite of John Kerr's dodgy acting, I found a genuinely excellent film. Highly recommended.

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