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Son of red print theater : Pit and the Pendulum ( 1961 )

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  • Son of red print theater : Pit and the Pendulum ( 1961 )

    Welcome to : Son of red print theater !!


    Hello fellow film fiends !
    This month's selection is …..PIT AND THE PENDULUM ( 1961 )...IN SCOPE !
    In the sixteenth century, Francis Barnard travels to Spain to clarify the strange circumstances of his sister's death after she had married the son of a cruel Spanish Inquisitor.

    Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the brutal torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died of a blood disease, but Francis finds this hard to believe. After some investigating he finds out that it was extreme fear that was fatal to his sister and that she may have been buried alive! Strange things then start to happen in the Medina castle.

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    Three legendary figures, one in writing, and one in film-making, and one in acting are responsible for bringing The Pit and the Pendulum to life. It's Edgar Allen Poe's story about a brother struggling to come to terms about how his sister's untimely death happened. He goes to the mansion of Nicholas Medina, played by the magnificent Vincent Price, to look for answers. The Pit and the Pendulum for a 60's movie is attention getting by how powerful and mystique the actors and actresses characters are, and the brilliant story and script that intertwines very nicely. Roger Corman direction was astounding as well, making me realize why he's so acclaimed by his film-making peers. The Pit and the Pendulum is a nice little horror flick that I watched with no expectations and had no regrets spending the time and money to watch it.

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    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 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. it is on the blu-ray of Vincent Price films , Vol.1 .

    In Spain was released at first in Barcelona (14 June/1963) and later in Madrid (15 July/1963) and other provinces. Also -in 2001- the film was a re-release in Madrid (Pequeño Cine Estudio) for 14 days, only in subtitled version. The film was 3 dubbed versions: in 1963 for cinemas, in 1983 for VHS and TV premiere (1989) and in 1995 for his second video edition.

    Passed by the British Board of Film Censors on 13 September 1961 with an "X" certificate. Premiered in the West End at the London Pavilion on 24 November 1961 and ran four weeks. The general release commenced on 14 January 1962.

    But here is one thing in the film that always got me :
    When Elizabeth is trapped and gagged in the Iron Maiden, her hands are obviously free. Why then does she not remove her gag and cry out to Maximillian and the others to rescue her?
    None of the torture instruments that appear in the movie where used by the Inquisition and many of them even didn't existed during the time the story is set. One of the most clear examples is the Iron Maiden that was invented during the 18th century.
    This is one my favorite film of all time. I have seen it 100 times ( 1st time as a 7 year old - very impressed ! ) and always find a detail or two at each screening that is imaginative and inspiring. My print is in scope ; See it if you can in wide screen. You will appreciate it more. Especially when the pendulum swings !!!

  • #2

    Great write-up! I consider this to be Roger Corman's best film. Floyd Crosby's cinematography is absolutely stunning, particularly when viewing prints that aren't quite



    • #3
      Thanks for the input Doug and I TOTALLY agree with you on that !
      But here is some more fun facts concerning Daniel Haller and Floyd Crosby's work on the film -

      The film's brief exterior prologue showing Kerr's arrival to the castle was filmed on the Palos Verde coast. The rest of the production was shot in four interior sound stages at the Hollywood , California Studios . To provide great freedom for the planned camera movements, a castle set with many levels and ample space was designed by Daniel Haller.

      Because of the film's low budget, none of the sets could be constructed "from scratch." After Haller made sketches and floor plans for the sets, he searched the backlots and property lofts of the major studios in search of available set units that could be inexpensively rented and then put together to form the sets he had conceived. At Universal Studios, he located numerous discarded pieces from old productions, including massive archways, fireplaces, windows and doorways, and several torture machine props. At other studios, he found gigantic stairways and stone wall units. Haller selected and rented numerous pieces from these various depositories and had them delivered to California Studios, where the sets for the film were constructed, following his floor plans as closely as possible.To further set the atmosphere, about 20 gallons of cobwebbing was sprayed throughout the castle's sets.

      The film's pendulum was eighteen-feet long and weighed over a ton and was constructed with a realistic rubber cutting blade. The pendulum was rigged from the top of the sound stage thirty-five feet in the air. In an interview, Haller provided details regarding the creation of the pendulum:
      I found that such a pendulum actually was used during the Spanish and German inquisitions. At first we tried to use a rubberized blade, and that's why it got stuck on Kerr's chest. We then switched to a sharp metalized blade covered with steel paint. The problem was to get it in exactly the right position so it would slash John's shirt without actually cutting him. To guard against this, we put a steel band around his waist where the pendulum crosses. He was a good sport about it...but noticed him perspiring a good bit and no wonder. That pendulum was carving out a 50 foot arc just above his body.

      To visually enhance the size of this set, the camera was equipped with a 40 mm Panavision wide-angle lens and mounted at the opposite end of the stage, giving Crosby the ability to frame the scenes in his camera with extra space at the bottom and at either side. These areas were filled in later by printing-in process extensions of the set, doubling its size onscreen.


      • #4
        A cracking motion picture but I really struggle to watch red films after a lifetime striving for projection perfection. We did watch the Blu-ray a bit ago again and this film does have a really special look.

        Twas funny when I got my S8 of the film all those years ago and excitedly opening the yellow box only to find it had the German film in it.
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        Last edited by Lee Mannering; June 10, 2020, 07:57 AM.


        • #5
          Another great Red review David, looks a nice print and in scope too, Mark
          Last edited by Mark Mander; June 13, 2020, 08:14 AM.


          • #6
            Ah yes Mark....scope...that was the ONLY way to see these classic POE-CORMAN-PRICE flicks !!


            • #7
              One fascinating fact was that in 1968 and a prospective tv screening in place ABC demanded Corman shot extra footage to make up the 2 hour slot. That padding out to meet the 120 minutes seems astounding today where artistic licence is stripped away. When having 35mm in here we had 2000ft of this one quite pink, but I always wondered it it had any extra footage in.
              A nice thread David