Daily Archives: 07/06/2012
Directed by Roger Corman
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe
I love going back to those movies that I saw years ago as a child. Just before I watch them I begin to wonder if they will have the same effect on me now as then. Sometimes time has been unkind to them and I am left to desire more. With “The Pit and the Pendulum” the old frights are there, although not as intense as I remember; but that takes nothing from a film that is more atmospherically unsettling in some scenes and that most films of today cannot hold a candle to. Without films such as “The Pit and the Pendulum” and actors like Vincent Price and the raven-haired beauty Barbara Steele to give him inspiration the world might never have heard of Tim Burton.
Growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina I would be driven to the local library by my mother or my sister. On certain weeknights they would show old movies and it is there that I was first frightened out of my wits by this adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of betrayal, torture and deceit. I watched as Francis Barnard (John Kerr) desperately tried to find out the cause of his sister Elizabeth’s untimely passing. I watched as the great Vincent Price ran the gamut of emotions from agony to anguish as he tortured himself for his beloved wife’s death. I remember nearly jumping out of my seat when her casket was opened and her terror-stricken face was revealed. This was one of the moments in my life that my love for horror was released from within the pits of my mind and allowed full reign over my senses. The revelation of her ghastly visage is the stuff that nightmares are made of and it is no lie when I tell you that when I saw that face again 40 years later it still sent a chill down my spine. But the terror does not end there. “The Pit and the Pendulum” has enough fright to fill 10 movies and there is not one false fright or jump scene to be found. No, the scares occur as a result of the combination of the characters reactions and to the screenwriter (Richard Matheson-“The Twilight Zone”, “Trilogy of Terror”) and the director’s (Roger Corman-“A Bucket of Blood”, “The Little Shop of Horrors”); and to their ability to convey that atmosphere of fear to us, the audience. When was the last time you saw a horror film that scared you without making you feel like you were going into cardiac arrest? The fear makers of today could learn a lot by studying the movies of yesterday.
So, the next time you watch “Sleepy Hollow” or “Edward Scissorhands” or almost any of Tim Burton’s gothic tales, make sure you whisper a soft little thank you to Vincent Price, Roger Corman, Richard Matheson and Barbara Steele. They’ve certainly earned it.
Oh, make sure you thank Edgar, too. He’s definitely earned it.
The film never had an original prologue. It was added when the film was sold to TV and a further few minutes were required to pad out the running time. Only Luana Anders from the original cast was available so an extra scene of her in a madhouse was filmed and tacked on to the beginning. This scene does not really tie in with the rest of the film.
To increase the pendulum’s sense of deadly menace, director Roger Corman took out every other frame during the editing stage making the blade appear to move twice as fast.
Actor John Kerr was worried about being strapped down to the table with the pendulum above him for the movie’s climax. In order to demonstrate that it was perfectly safe, director Roger Corman stood in for Kerr while the scene was being set up.
- The Raven doesn’t do Edgar Allan Poe justice (thesudburystar.com)
- Charlotte Robinson: LISTEN: Legendary Filmmakers Voice Their Support For LGBT Equality At The Provincetown International Film Festival (huffingtonpost.com)
- Illustrations that made Edgar Allan Poe’s stories even more horrifying [Edgar Allan Poe] (io9.com)
- ‘Ghost Detectives’ head to Poe House (upi.com)
- I Fell Asleep 17 Times During The Raven [Exit Musings For A Film] (gawker.com)
- Review: The Raven (DaveOnFilm.com)
- CBR TV: James McTiegue On “The Raven,” “V For Vendetta” & Occupy (comicbookresources.com)
- John Cusack explains why Edgar Allan Poe created everything you love [The Raven] (io9.com)
- ‘The Raven’: Poe’s Last Hours, Actionated (Review) (popmatters.com)
- MOVIES: Cusack’s Poe keeps ‘The Raven’ from descending into dull (kitsapsun.com)
- Scared Silly (fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com)
- The Raven (boston.com)
- Illustrations that made Edgar Allan Poe’s stories even more horrifying (metafilter.com)
- The Pit and the Pendulum, Part 2 (afcbenburt.wordpress.com)
- Shadows Fall Get Down With Edgar Allen Poe for “The Unknown” Video (metalsucks.net)
- Roger Corman’s Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader Heading to San Diego Comic-Con (dreadcentral.com)