NOVEMBER 28 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)
Man, good thing I caught Pit And The Pendulum on Turner Classic Movies (best non-premium movie channel ever!), where it was presented in letterbox format, and not on a Mill Creek budget pack, like many other Roger Corman movies I watch. Corman filled the frame in almost every shot, and I would hate to see it cropped. He might be known as a cheapskate, hack, etc, but damned if this movie doesn’t look great throughout.
Like a lot of Poe movies, the part that actually follows the short story is pretty much the finale, so the writers have come up with an hour or so of “prequel” in order to make a film (though I am guessing someone like Ti West, the master of padding, could take a 2-3 page Poe story and make an 80 minute film out of it without adding a goddamn thing). And the one they came up with is... strangely similar to the plot of the same team's House Of Usher, which came out the year before. Like that film, a guy arrives at a castle to question Vincent Price about the death of a shared loved one (this time it’s HIS sister/Price’s wife, whereas in Usher it was the other way around), leading to a lot of heated arguments and finally, an ending in which someone gets punched in a dungeon.
But it’s a lot of fun. Price gets to go all over the place in this one, from his usual smarmy creep, to a scared and disturbed grieving widow, and finally a madman who tries to kill everyone and manages to fail on all accounts (of his 3 intended victims, one falls to his own death, one escapes and the other is left forgotten inside a cage). The other lead, the guy who plays his brother-in-law, looks constipated throughout the film, and he’s pretty much a bore, but really, when you have Price around, why bother casting someone with any screen presence? It will all be vacuumed up by Price anyway. And Barbara Steele is also on hand, though not as much as I hoped given her billing prominence. She’s seen mainly in oddly colored, mute flashbacks throughout the film. In the finale she comes back and plays her usual whorish bitch of a woman, but it’s not enough. More Steele!
Speaking of the credits, Pendulum is a rare film that has the cast listed at the top of the film but none of the crew. I can see why you might not want to let an audience know right off the bat that they are about to watch a Roger Corman movie, but it’s still pretty odd, especially for the time period (in which, most of the time, they would list EVERYONE in the cast and crew at the beginning, and then just have THE END at the end, with maybe a single card for the cast). Corman probably just forgot to pay the credit titles guy.
What say you?