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The Pit and the Pendulum
Das Pendel des Todes

USA 1961
produced by
Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff for Alta Vista/AIP
directed by Roger Corman
starring Vincent Price, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Barbara Steele, Anthony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Larry Turner, Mary Menzies, Charles Victor
screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe, music by Les Baxter

AIP's Poe-cycle, Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe-adaptations, Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Francis' (John Kerr) sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) has died at her husband Nicholas Medina's (Vincent Price) castle under mysterious circumstances ... and now Francis pays Medina a visit and is hell-bent to find out what happened. To his surprise, the Medinas' family Doctor Leon (Anthony Carbone) tells him that his sister died of fright, when she one day visited the torture dungeon that belonged to Nicholas' long-dead father Sebastian (also Vincent Price). Somehow the story doesn't click though for Francis, and he soon begins to suspect Nicholas of having murdered her, since Nicholas is now an emotional wreck who seems to be guilt-ridden since his wife's death, and he claims to having heard her voice ...

What Francis then finds out though is even more unsettling: As a child, Nicholas (then played by Larry Turner) watched his father torturing his uncle Bartholome (Charles Victor) to death and and entombing his mother (Mary Menzies) alive because they were cheating on him ... and now Nicholas thinks that he has entombed his wife alive as well (though not on purpose). The only thing to prove Nicholas wrong, Doctor Leon figures, is to open the tomb and show him his wife was quite dead at her burial ... but of course she wasn't, in the tomb lies Elizabeth's partly decomposed corpse in a position as if she desperately tried to make her way out ... which leaves Nicholas devastated ...

That night, Elizabeth voice calls for Nicholas and lures him down to her tomb. And out of the tomb comes - Elizabeth (in flesh and blood and not decomposed at all), and she hunts him through the castle until he falls down the stairs to the torture dungeon, presumably dead. Enter Doctor Leon, the lover and accomplice of Elizabeth who helped her fake her own death and drive Nicholas insane. The two engage in a kiss ... but Nicholas isn't yet dead, only quite mad, and all of a sudden he assumes the identity of his father and once again uses torture to avenge himself on his wife and her lover: First he throws doc Leon into a pit, then he gags Elizabeth and locks her inside an iron maiden.

Then enter Francis, who doesn't understand the situation one bit, but before he knows it he is strapped to a rack, above which a pendulum with a blade mounted to its end is swinging, being lowered towards Francis' body with every swing.

Thank god just before Francis can be cut up Nicholas sister Catherine (Luana Anders) and butler Maximilian (Patrick Westwood) arrive, overcome Nicholas, throw him into the pit (just next to Doc Leon) and free Francis. Then they leave the torture dungeon and swear to never enter it again.

All's well that ends well ?

Well, not for poor, bitchy Elizabeth, who is still caught in the iron maiden, not yet dead, but since probably nobody will ever enter the torture dungeon again and she is believed to be dead in the first place, chances are that she will never again get out.

 

What can I say ?

Most of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations are pretty good, and this is one of the better ones at that, a very stylish, atmospheric chiller with a few quite effective plottwists (especially the ending, when the camera closes in on doomed Elizabeth's/Barbara Steele's eyes inside the iron maiden), solid performances by all of the involved (with as usual Vincent Price dominating every scene he's in) and the usual impressive sets and great camerawork. In all honesty, the film has very little to do with the Edgar Allan Poe-story it is based on, but what the heck, it's good horror entertainment.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD