This has been a great week for Vincent Price fans. Hot on the heels of the Arrow Video release of Theatre of Blood comes the release of The Pit and the Pendulum, director Roger Corman’s 1961 follow-up to The Fall of the House of Usher.
16th-century Spanish nobleman Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) is a haunted man: he fears his late wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) was prematurely interred and now stalks his gloomy seaside castle as a vengeful spirit. But he’s mistaken. Elizabeth is very much alive and is using a childhood trauma – Nicholas witnessed his mother being entombed alive at the hands of his inquisitor father as a child – to drive him insane. But her sick plan works only too well – Nicholas goes over the edge and becomes his own raving mad father, which spells deep trouble for Elizabeth’s brother Francis (John Kerr) and the rest Medina household…
On its original release, The Pit and Pendulum became an instant hit with both critics and audiences alike, with the plaudits ranging from ‘a physically stylish, imaginatively photographed horror film’ (Variety) to ‘a thoroughly creepy sequence of horrors’ (New Yorker) and – my favourite – ‘Engagingly cornball insanity-in-the-castle hokum, with Vincent Price in fine eyeball-rolling, scenery-chomping form.’ (Joe Dante, Castle of Frankenstein)..
Certainly director Roger Corman succeeded in crafting one of the most arresting openings in any Gothic horror film and, after drawing you into a nightmarish world of cobwebs, secret passages and gruesome blood-stained torture chamber, balancing it with a grislyheart-stopping finale. But topping it all is Vincent Price’s scene-stealing performance. If 1960’s House of Usher officially launched Price as the Master of Menace, it was Pit and the Pendulum that truly crowned him the new king of Horror and made seeing ‘a Vincent Price movie’ an annual event for 1960’s cinemagoers.
THE ARROW BLU-RAY RELEASE
Arrow Video‘s High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature is transferred from original film elements by MGM. The bonus features includes audio commentaries with director-producer Roger Corman and critic Tim Lucas, and a ‘making of’ documentary. Alongside this is the 1970 TV special An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe in which Price reads four of Poe’s classic stories. Another great extra is an added TV sequence which was shot in 1968 to pad out the film for the longer TV time slot. Plus, there’s a collector’s booklet featuring an essay by Gothic horror author Jonathan Rigby, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
FOR MORE ABOUT THIS RELEASE, READ PETE’S FULL REVIEW (CLICK HERE)