The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
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MGM (USA). Region 1 NTSC. 2.35:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 1.0, French DD 1.0. French, Spanish Subtitles. 80 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders and Antony Carbone
Screenplay: Richard Matheson from a story by Edgar Allan Poe
Music: Les Baxter
Tagline: The Greatest Terror Tale Ever Told!
Another Corman and Price collaborative retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe tale arrives on DVD thanks to the good folk at MGM. Released as part of their Midnite Movies line, this is a fabulous-looking disc and well worth the low price-tag.

Francis Barnard (John Kerr) arrives at the ancestral home of Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) having received word that his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), had died. Elizabeth had been the wife of Nicholas and Francis has come to get the full story. As the story unfolds it soon becomes apparent that Elizabeth was not the wife Nicholas thought her be, weaving a web of deceit and adultery. Nicholas descends into madness, taking on the persona of his murderous father, Sebastian Medina (also played by Price), who murdered his own wife for committing adultery. The film then takes us to the climactic scene involving the pendulum and Elizabeth getting her own comeuppance by being encased within an iron maiden.

The film is very similar in structure and style to the previous Corman/ Price effort, The Fall of the House of Usher (also available in the Midnite Movies line and an equally fine disc), with the same thematics of adultery and madness and directed with a similar style. Never the less, both films stand as classics of their kind, despite the distinct similarities.

Vincent Price plays his role to hammy perfection and Barbara Steele is deliciously evil as his adulterous and conniving wife. The sets are magnificent and the film simply oozes gothic atmosphere, whilst Les Baxter's creepy soundtrack is perfect and Corman directs confidently with a sure hand. Pretty faultless really and a must-have for fans of gothic horror.
Although suffering a little scratchiness in places (mainly at the beginning), the print is in surprisingly good shape and MGM have presented a simply gorgeous transfer here. It is crisp and sharp with vivid colours and absolutely no signs of artifacting and, aside from the aforementioned flaw, is pretty much perfect. A tremendous transfer from MGM and at a budget price too!
Presented in basic mono, the audio is surprisingly full and perfectly captures the essence of the film and adequately reproduces the haunting score by Baxter. More than acceptable and will raise few complaints.
Extra Features
MGM provide a handful of extras on the disc, which is better than nothing and certainly does boost the value of this budget release. The most interesting extra feature is the rarely seen prologue of the film that was dropped from the final cut of the film. It was a real treat to see this and virtually makes this disc an absolute must for this feature alone. Also to be found are a theatrical trailer and a highly informative audio commentary from director Corman who gives plenty of background information on the making of the film.
The Verdict
For a budget release this is superb value and you really can't go wrong in purchasing this disc. The transfer is excellent, perfectly reproducing the sumptuous cinematography, and it's nice to see the film presented in its correct aspect ratio. An amazing disc with some very interesting extras and worth every penny (or cent!). This DVD is certainly highly recommended by this reviewer. What are you waiting for?
Movie Score
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