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Thursday, July 24, 2014

REVIEW: PIT AND THE PENDULUM (ARROW Blu-ray)


Last October I had the pleasure of reviewing the Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection Vol. 1. It contained some favorite AIP Vincent Price Blu-rays, and each one of them had a little something extra to enjoy whether it was an intro from Vincent Price himself from an old PBS affiliate or interview with a historian. Collections are great like that. They allow fans to get a big piece of the pie and sometimes that's perfect. Now when discussing the disc in question to, The Pit and the Pendulum, I'm afraid we also find the fault in big collections... they don't include the same extra feature package, especially not an Arrow package.Sometimes when you want to spend a night with Edgar Allen Poe or even an AIP/Roger Corman Poe adaptation, you need the whole night to do it. 

First off let's throw you  the Synopsis from ARROW: 

THE GREATEST TERROR TALE EVER TOLD!

A horse-drawn carriage pulls up on a deserted beach. A sombre figure dismounts and gazes up towards his destination – a foreboding cliff-top castle perched high above the crashing waves. Thus the perfect Gothic scene is set for Pit and the Pendulum, the second of Roger Corman’s celebrated Poe adaptations once again starring the ever-reliable Vincent Price (The Fall of the House of Usher, Theatre of Blood) alongside the bewitching Barbara Steele (Black Sunday).

Having learned of the sudden death of his sister Elizabeth (Steele), Francis Barnard (John Kerr) sets out to the castle of his brother-in-law, Nicholas Medina, to uncover the cause of her untimely demise. A distraught, grief-stricken Nicholas (Price) can offer only the vaguest explanations as to Elizabeth’s death – at first citing “something in her blood”, but later asserting that she quite literally “died of fright”. What sort of unspeakable horrors are buried within the walls of this castle that could cause one’s heart to stop so? With Francis determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the terrible truth will not stay buried for long.

Right from its brooding kaleidoscopic opening titles, Pit and Pendulum draws you into its world of cobwebs, secret passageways and dusty suits of armour. All the necessary elements are present and correct and, along with one of Vincent Price’s most tortured performances, make Pit and the Pendulum every inch the Gothic masterpiece.


The quality of the Pit and the Pendulum disc is well beyond anything for which AIP could hope. That is to say that a production company that is notorious for putting out low budget movies with Roger Corman certainly has been given a treatment beyond the breath of its imagination. For example, this disc includes a full making of feature involving Corman and Victoria Price (who I had the chance to see at Monster Mania this past March). The US release of the Scream Factory disc contained an interview with Corman, but this goes above and beyond.  It also includes Vincent Price reading Poe classic which is perfect for October (right around the corner). Truly creepy stuff read by the master of horror himself. The added TV sequence are a nice bonus though I don't know that today's audience will be able to appreciate or remember them from any viewing from 1968. Still perfect for the completist. 

FULL LIST OF SPECIAL FEATURES:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio
Optional Isolated Music and Effects Track
Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with director and producer Roger Corman
Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas
Behind the Swinging Blade – A new documentary on the making of The Pit and the Pendulum featuring Roger Corman, star Barbara Steele, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price and more!
Added TV Sequence – Shot in 1968 to pad out the film for the longer TV time slot, this scene features star Luana Anders
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe with Vincent Price [52 mins] – Price reads a selection of Poe’s classic stories before a live audience, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum (with optional English SDH)
Original Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

DETAILS:
Region: B
Rating: 12
Cat No: FCD924
Duration: 81 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Mono PCM
Colour: Colour

The movie itself is pivotal in that it conveys all that is great about a Poe story or several for that matter into one amalgamated work of perfect horror. From madness to sadism with perfect Gothic spook and ghost story in tow, Pit and the Pendulum is a favorite AIP rendition of the Poe story even if it bares little resemblance and takes liberties throughout most of the production. The color palette for this production was perfectly beautiful filled with rich blues and primary colors hefted with a dose of Technicolor that wraps the viewer in a blanket before their bed time story ala EAP. 

It is important to note that this is a Region B disc which is perfect for our Region Free readers or readers from the UK. Given the quality and scope of Arrow line it would behoove any serious collector to invest in a Region Free player to enjoy them if you live in the US. Of course you could always buy them for the beautiful packaging alone which Arrow includes on all its releases. The cover art is absolutely haunting, and while I may always adore the original artwork for this picture, I am impressed by the nightmarish qualities of the new jacket. 

Pit and the Pendulum is available now through Arrow as it was released this past May. 


This is a great compliment to the Scream Factory set released this past October with a full extra package that helps to fill in the gaps from the US release. Perfect for Poe fans and collectors and fans of the almight Vincent Price. 

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