Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 7th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1991
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writer: Dennis Paoli
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Stephen Lee, William J. Norris, Mark Margolis, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Barbara Bocci, Benito Stefanelli, Jeffrey Combs, Tom Towles, Rona De Ricci
BluRay released: August 12th, 2013
Approximate running times: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo English
BluRay Release: 88 Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £10.31
Synopsis: During the Spanish inquisition, the wife of a baker is arrested and accused of being a witch, after she refuses to watch a Auto-da-fé. To further complicate her plight, she becomes the object of desire of the Grand Inquisitor of Spain.
The Pit and The Pendulum was directed by Stuart Gordon, who is best known for his adaptations of the literary work’s of H.P. Lovecraft, most notably the films Re-Animator and From Beyond. With the majority of his film outside of his H.P. Lovecraft adaptations being rather lackluster affairs.
This time around Stuart Gordon finds inspiration in the literary works of Edgar Allen Poe. Most notably the films title ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ and this adaptation also retains the source materials original setting, the Spanish Inquisition. Also this story most famous sequence, the pendulum swinging slowly back and forth over its victim, has been retained for this adaptation. Another standout moment in this film includes a scene in which a character gets entombed in a wall (The Cask of Amontillado).
Content wise, this film is not a Horror film, as much as the events which are on screen are horrific to watch. There is a bleak mood that is quickly established and there is rarely moment in which the viewer is given a chance to come up for air. And while should be expected, given this film’s subject matter, the Spanish Inquisition. The level in which the tortures take pride in their jobs often makes watching what is unfolding on screen all the more disturbing to digest.
Plot wise, there is not really too much going on here. It is obvious that the star attraction of this film are its sadistic torture sequences. From a production stand point there are a handful of instances in which this film’s limited budget calls attention to itself like the wardrobe worn by the cast and the film’s crude special effects.
Surprisingly the one area that this film shines the most are the performances from the cast, who for the most part are very good in their respective roles. With the film’s stand out performance coming from Lance Henriksen (Aliens) in the role of the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. And without a doubt the film’s most mesmerizing performance comes from its leading lady Rona De Ricci in the role of the baker’s wife who is accused of being a witch. Also being that her character is the object of desire in this film, I can happily say that she more than delivers in this regard. Another performance of note is the ever reliable Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator).
The Pit and the Pendulum comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors look nicely saturated, black levels look very good, details generally look crisp, grain look natural and there are no issues with compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD Stereo mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clear, clean, balanced and robust when they need too.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 29 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a trailer for Castle Freak, a vintage ‘Making of’ featurette (26 minutes 2 seconds – 4:3 full frame) and a brand new interview with director Stuart Gordon (8 minutes 24 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) who gives a well rounded overview of this film and those involved in making it. Overall The Pit and the Pendulum gets a strong release from 88 Films.