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Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel

Castle of the Walking Dead
The Blood Demon / The Snake Pit and the Pendulum / The Torture Chamber of Dr.Sadism / The Troture Room

West Germany 1967
produced by
Wolfgang Kühnlenz, Erwin Gitt (executive) for Constantin Film
directed by Harald Reinl
starring Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange, Vladimir Medar, Christiane Rücker, Dieter Eppler
screenplay by Manfred R. Köhler, inspired by the story The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, music by Peter Thomas

Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Roger von Marienberg (Lex Barker) and Baroness Lilian von Brabant (Karin Dor) head to the catle of Count Regula (Christopher Lee), he to find out about his own past, she is promised a big inheritance. They are accompanied by her maid Babette (Christiane Rücker) and Father Fabian (Vladimir Medar), who eventually turns out not to be a priest at all but a highwayman.

But even the way to the castle does seem a tad disquieting: the inhabitants of the neighbouring village deny even the existence of a castle (don't villagers always do that ?), and Count Regula is said to have died 35 years ago, torn apart by four horses before the eyes of an angry mob (he is said to have killed 12 virgins you know ... well, didn't aristocrats all in those days ?). Then the way of our heroes leads through a forest where the hangman seems to have done overtime, so riddled is the forest with hanged corpses in various states of decay. Eventually too, their coachman (Dieter Eppler) dies from a heart attack caused by instant shock. And finally in the castle, our heroes find themselves not guests but prisoners.

You see, Count Regula has found the secret of eternal life, but needed 13 virgins to attain that. Unfortunately he only got 12, and his thirteenth victim, Baroness von Brabant's mum blew the whistle to the authorities (headed by von Marienberg's father), which caused Regula to be gruesomly executed.

But Regula's servant Anathol (Carl Lange) has found a way to restore his master to life long enough to sacrifice the 13th victim, the Baroness. At first it seems too that Regula will succeed, Fabian and Babette are soon enough lured away from the main proceedings, and Roger von Marienberg is tied down to fe floor, with the famous pendulum swinging over him, closing in for the kill by the second. And the Baroness herself is threatened with death in a snakepit until she is scared shitless (because you know, Regula's virgins have to be scared shitless for his immortality thing to work) ... but somehow, Roger escapes the pendulum, gets hold of a crucifix and enters Regula's lab when he's just about to extract blood from the Baroness ... and the crucifix does not only destroy Regula's experiment and end his life for good, but - in best horrorfilm tradition - also tear down his castle ...

Only Roger and the Baroness and Fabian and Babette survive.

 

To get something clear up front, except for the famous pendulum and a pit, this film has nothing whatsoever to do with Edgar Allan Poe (but to be quite honest, Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum from 1961 was hardly any more faithful to its source), and the story of Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel is stupid as hell, little more than a succession of pulp horror clichés ... yet the film is great.

Director Harald Reinl, who has previously proven himself as a first class genre craftman with his Westerns and crime pictures, shows a very secure hand at handling horror atmosphere and bringing unsettling images (like the forest riddled with dead men) to life, and thus he proves that a horror film does not have to follow reason as such but can live on the logic of a nightmare ... and so he created simply a great film, a masterpiece of horor (a genre that he unfortunately would never return to) and possibly the director's best.

Highest recommendation.

 

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
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

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