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Pit and the Pendulum, The – Arrow Video (BluRay) 
Written by: on June 5th, 2014

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1961
Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders

BluRay released: May 19th, 2014
Approximate running times: 81 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £17.75 (UK)

Synopsis: A young man visits his brother in laws home after learning that his sister died under mysterious circumstances.

The Pit and the Pendulum was directed by Roger Corman who would go onto direct seven more films that were adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Well technically six more, since The Haunted Place is a Poe adaption in name only and story has been adapted from a story written by H. P. Lovecraft.

Key collaborators on The Pit and the Pendulum include screenwriter Richard Matheson (‘The Twilight Zone’, I am Legend), Composer Les Baxter (Black Sabbath, Baron Blood) and cinematographer Floyd Crosby a frequent collaborator of Roger Corman’s.

Sequels are a necessary evil of the film industry and though The Pit and the Pendulum is not a continuation of House of Usher plot wise. It is a continuation of a series of films directed by Roger Corman that were all based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Thus making it an unofficial sequel of the aforementioned House of Usher. And one would think that following the success of House of Usher that Roger Corman would have been given more freedom and a larger budget to work with. Unfortunately that would not be the case as he was working with AIP (American International Pictures) a company known for being notoriously cheap when it came to their budgets. Fortunately this lack of resources was something that Corman was used too and as he progressed as a filmmaker he would excel with less where most filmmakers would falter.

After choosing which story that he wanted to adapt next the first issue that Corman had to deal with was what he going to do about the first two acts since the story he choose was only long enough to carry the film’s final act. And this is where screenwriter Richard Matheson’s invaluable contribution not only to this film but to the whole cycle of Poe films shines the brightest as he weaves elements in the first two acts that are drawn from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. He creates a strong narrative that helps build and sustain the mounting sense of doom present throughout this film.

Visually Corman with The Pit and the Pendulum once again surprises as this film is another giant step in regards to his development as a director. The Gothic atmosphere that is prevalent throughout House of Usher is covered over for this film and this time around he further exploits the use of colors to further add dimensions to the story at hand. A few of this films standout moments visually include the blue tinted flashbacks and of course this film’s finale.

Performance wise, Vincent Price (Theatre of Blood) is once again cast in the main roles. He portrays Nicholas Medina the husband who with died under mysterious circumstances in an iron maiden. Price is very good in this film as he is given the task of playing a grieving widower who’s wife’s ghost has come back to haunt me and drive him mad. Cast in the role of Price’s wife is Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, Silent Scream) and though her screen time is limited to flashbacks and the films final act. Her specter of her characters plays a pivotal role in this film’s narrative. Unfortunately outside of Price and Steele the rest of the cast are at best adequate. Overall though there is a lot to enjoy and like about The Pit and the Pendulum, it still is over shadow by what came before it House of Usher.

The BluRay:

The Pit and the Pendulum comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors look nicely saturated, details look sharp and black levels look very good throughout. There are no issues with compression and grain looks healthy and natural throughout. Overall another solid transfer from Arrow Video that once again easily beats Shout! Factory’s transfer.

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. Dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Range wise things are rather limited and there is only so much one could do with this film’s mono source. This releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release is removable English SDH subtitles.

Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 30 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an additional scene shot for television (5 minutes 4 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe with Vincent Price (53 minutes 7 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with optional English SDH subtitles) 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, a documentary titled ‘Behind the Swinging Blade” (43 minutes 7 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) that includes comments from director Roger Corman, actress Barbara Steele, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price, filmmaker Brian Yunza and two audio commentaries, the first one with Roger Corman and the second one with film critic Tim Lucas.

The documentary is well rounded discussion that reveals how this film came about due to the success of House of Usher and how Roger Corman originally intended his second Edgar Allan Poe picture to be Mask of the Red Death, the cast, screenwriter Richard Matheson and his invaluable contributions to the Poe film series, Mario Bava, Hammer Films and various other production related topics.

Topics covered in the audio commentary with Roger Cormen include working on a limited budget, the cast, locations, using of Freudian psychology throughout the film and various other production related topics. This track is ported over from a previous home video release from MGM. The audio commentary with Tim Lucas is an insightful track that is overflowing with info about the film and those involved in making it.

Rounding out the extras reversible covert art and twenty four page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby, illustrated with original archive stills and posters. Overall The Pit and the Pendulum is another exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.

Note: Arrow Video are also releasing this film in a steel book edition.

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