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)
Do you want to know when you’ve achieved hotness as a horror hottie? When you can spend the second act of a film with a wooden table leg in place of your real one; and the last act of the same film with a machine gun in place of the same wooden table leg that was a substitute for your real leg in the first place and look damn sexy either way. That’s exactly what Rose McGowan did when she starred as Cherry Darling, ex-Go Go Dancer turned bad-ass zombie killer in Robert Rodriguez’ “Planet Terror“. Miss McGowan has had quite the career in the horror genre with roles in “Scream” (1996), “Devil in the Flesh” (1998), “Phantoms” (1998) and the television series “Charmed” (2001-2006). She is in post-production on “The Tell-tale Heart“, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe; and in pre-production with Julia Stiles and Virginia Madsen on “The Bell Jar”, based on the novel by Sylvia Plath. It looks like Written in Blood’s Scream Queen of the Month for May 2012 is just…cherry.
Has agoraphobia and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Quote: “I think if I had lived back in Salem, I would have been burned at the stake.”
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There have been a plethora of writers, musicians and the like who have suffered from insanity throughout the years. But this guy, Edgar Allan Poe, quite personally I believe that he wrote the book on it. For not only was he not writing with a full inkwell, he was also an alcoholic. In fact, a lot of times he would incorporate his insanity and his alcoholism into his stories. The Black Cat is a clear example of one of those tales.
At the beginning, the narrator of the story tells his story as he awaits his execution for the murder of his wife. It all begins with this man having a deep love for animals, especially the large black cat that was his constant companion. But one day, fueled by alcohol and madness, he cuts the eye out of the animal, severing its trust with him permanently. He eventually kills the cat by hanging it from a tree, but it doesn’t end there. Another cat appears one day with almost identical markings and missing the same eye as the previous feline. In a fit of anger over the animal, he attempts to strike it dead only to bury the axe in his wife’s skull when she intervenes. Using bricks and mortar, he hides her corpse within the walls of their home, satisfied that he has gotten away with murder. Au contraire, he forgets one little detail. It appears that he has walled the very beast he intended the axe for in the first place in the homemade tomb that he has hidden his wife. Its incessant caterwauling leads the police to her body and our narrator to the executioner.
So, what exactly is the black cat? Not the first cat in the story, mind you; that cat was the representation of the suffering caused by alcoholic rage. The suffering the drunkard causes others, not his own. No, I mean the cat that our hapless narrator unwittingly entombs with his split-headed spouse. Is it a demon? Perhaps so, it is clear that this man’s’ soul is in a torment from which he cannot escape; a torment that the cat itself appears to be the catalyst. Or is the cat a symbol of his guilt, of his desire to confess? While the story deals with madness and anger fueled by drink, it is also a study of guilt itself. Here’s a question; what if there was no cat? What if it were all a figment of the narrator’s tortured imagination? One thing I do know is that there have been a lot of guilty people throughout history for which the black cat should have yowled and meowed for.
THE MONKEY’S PAW by W.W. Jacobs
Published in 1902
Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot when you were a kid? I did. It wasn’t real, but it was supposed to bring good luck to whoever owned it. I’m sure at one time or another people carried real rabbit’s feet around. So I beg to differ about that whole good luck thing. The rabbit lost his foot, how lucky is that? It’s like Bruce Springsteen sang, ‘with very wish there comes a curse.’ That’s the whole idea behind the short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. A couple receives a mummified monkey’s paw that supposedly will grant its owner 3 wishes. The couple wishes for two hundred pounds so that they may pay their house loan. The next day their son is killed in a horrible industrial accident and for their compensation they receive the amount of, you guessed it, two hundred pounds.
But it doesn’t stop there. The mother obviously has not learned her lesson. For she thinks, “If this monkey’s paw can give us this money, then it can return our boy to us!” Well now, she’s right, it can return him to his loving parents. The thing is he’s messed up bad. He’s messed up in the ‘dad could only identify him by his clothing’ way. But being a husband who loves his wife and doesn’t want to see her grieving, he finds the paw and wishes their boy alive again. Then there is a knock on the door. Is it him? Is it their son? The woman rushes to the door! The husband knows that he can’t allow her to see her son in this condition and finds the paw yet again and just before she flings the door open he wishes his final wish. The knocking stops as the wife opens the door to the emptiness of the night.
It’s funny, W.W. Jacobs was known throughout his career for being a writer of humor. But can you, off the top of your head, name any other story that the man wrote? I sure as hell can’t. The Monkey’s Paw has been around for so long and has been adapted and parodied in so many ways that it has become a landmark of the horror short story. Everybody from the Simpsons to the late Warren Zevon has paid homage to this story in one way or another.
So, if I had a monkey’s paw in my pocket that would grant you three wishes. Would you take it? Think hard before you make your decision. For some reason you decide yes, then be careful what you wish for. Who knows, you might just get it.
- How did Fate play a role in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W.W. Jacobs and ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles (wiki.answers.com)
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