Take 3: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

For The Corman-Verse Blogathon, I was originally going to review the 1996 film Kyoko/Because of You. The only way I could watch the movie is if I purchased a DVD copy. Unfortunately, the copy I bought would not arrive in time for the blogathon. Even though I do plan to review Kyoko/Because of You in the near future, I needed to select a back-up film to write about for the event. While scrolling through Roger Corman’s filmography, I discovered he directed the 1961 adaptation, The Pit and the Pendulum. Since no other participant had selected the film, I chose to review this movie instead. Vincent Price is no stranger to 18 Cinema Lane. As of the publication of this review, The Pit and the Pendulum is the ninth movie of Vincent’s I’ve seen. The majority of his films have been enjoyable to varying degrees. So, where does the 1961 title lie? You won’t know that answer unless you read this review!

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) poster created by Alta Vista Productions and
American International Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, The Pit and the Pendulum is the ninth movie of Vincent’s I’ve seen. Among most of these films, Vincent’s acting talents have been on full display, allowing the audience to witness just how versatile of an actor he is. In the 1961 adaptation, Vincent portrays Nicholas Medina. Throughout the story, Nicholas is overcome not only by the loss of his wife, but also by trauma he experienced as a child. When Francis Barnard, the film’s protagonist, questions the cause of his sister’s death, Nicholas’ eyes appear both concerned and wounded. This is because he wants to protect Francis from the truth and himself from the grief. During Francis’ stay in the Medina Castle, Nicholas shows Francis Elizabeth’s (his wife and Francis’ sister) room. While reminiscing over his time with Elizabeth, Nicholas is suddenly overcome with sorrow. With a quivering lip and tear-filled eyes, he bursts out crying, longing for his dearly beloved.

 Like I previously mentioned, Francis Barnard is the film’s protagonist. Portrayed by John Kerr, this character was a good representative of the audience. What I mean by this is he and the audience were in the same boat, figuring things out as they go along. That element of the story gave viewers an opportunity to connect with the character. What also worked in John’s favor is how consistent his performance was. Throughout The Pit and the Pendulum, Francis was suspicious of the Medina Castle and the people who lived there. His face was set in a serious expression; mouth displaying a tight, straight line and eyes in a scowling manner.

Nicholas’ sister, Catherine, is one of the people Francis meets. Catherine, portrayed by Luana Anders, reminded me of Snow White from the 1937 animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is because she showcased a gentle concern toward the characters around her. But unlike the cartoon princess, Catherine contributed more to the story, instead of being a more passive participant. When she and her brother are first confronted by Francis about Elizabeth’s death, Catherine shows worry on her face. However, the reason for her facial expression was different from Nicholas’, as she wonders how she will reveal the truth to Francis. Later in the film, Catherine explains Nicholas’ past trauma to Francis, in an effort to show him her brother is being honest. This time, her expressions show more understanding, appearing calmer and sure of herself.

The set design: The Pit and the Pendulum takes place inside the Medina Castle, during the year 1547. While I’m not a historian when it comes to this particular era, I will say the set design appeared historically accurate! Each room of the castle was spacious, presented in long to medium shots to showcase their size and scope. Though the walls were a mix of white and caramel marble, they were covered with exquisite artwork. In Francis’ room, there was a wall-sized piece of tapestry. Elizabeth’s room boasted her portrait, which captured her in blue and purple hues. The rooms in Medina Castle also included elaborate pieces of furniture. A gold canopy bed in Elizabeth’s room displayed small, detailed carvings on the footboard.

The mystery: When I talked about John Kerr’s performance, I said his character, Francis, was in the same boat as the audience. That’s because this is the type of mystery story where the audience figures things out alongside the protagonist. Out of the mystery movies I’ve seen in my life, I find these types of stories to be some of the more engaging ones in the genre. They give viewers the illusion they are experiencing a journey with the main character. The mystery in The Pit and the Pendulum started right away and was carried until the movie’s end. As the story moved forward, the reveal of certain secrets was evenly paced throughout the script. This allowed the film’s momentum to remain consistent and keep the story intriguing!

The flash-back scenes: In a few moments of the movie, flash-back scenes were used to explain things that happened in Nicholas’ past. One example is when Nicholas himself is telling Francis how Elizabeth passed away. Those flash-back scenes were narrated by Vincent Price and were coated in a single-color hue. For instance, in the days of Nicholas and Elizabeth’s happier times, the scenes were displayed in either green or blue. The way the flash-backs were presented made them feel distinct from the “current” events. They also brought Nicholas past to life.

The Corman-Verse Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis

What I didn’t like about the film:

The prolonged appearance of The Pit and The Pendulum: I’ve gone on record to say a movie’s title, sometimes, serves as a promise to the audience. There is a pit and pendulum in this film. But they appeared in the movie’s last eleven minutes. It’s been years since I’ve read anything by Edgar Allan Poe, so I’m not sure which parts of the story are straight from the source material. However, I kind of wish the pit and pendulum would have appeared in the movie sooner.

A somewhat confusing climax: For this part of the review, I will be bringing up spoilers. While I typically try to leave spoilers out of my reviews, I feel I can’t fully explain my points without including them. If you haven’t seen 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum, please skip this part and continue reading where it states “The underutilization of Maximillian”.

In The Pit and the Pendulum, Francis, and the audience, learn Elizabeth died of shock. But throughout the film, Nicholas is convinced he killed his wife. To prove Nicholas didn’t kill Elizabeth, Francis and Doctor Leon open Elizabeth’s grave, revealing a skeleton. But toward the end of the movie, Nicholas discovers Elizabeth had been alive that whole time. Even though he is overcome by shock, Nicholas pulls out of it, believing he is his father, Sebastian. Looking back on the film, I wonder if Nicholas assumed his father’s identity because the grief and trauma made him take a psychological turn for the worse? Or did Nicholas know about Elizabeth and Leon’s affair that entire time, using the “shock” as the perfect opportunity for revenge? Also, where did Leon and Elizabeth find a skeleton for their plan?

The underutilization of Maximillian: In a handful of moments, a servant named Maximillian appeared in the movie. At one point, I honestly thought he would play a bigger role in the mystery. Unfortunately, Maximillian was underutilized throughout the story. It felt like this character was included in the movie just for the sake of it.

Castle photo created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/old-castle-in-the-mountians_1286237.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When it comes to movie blogging, things don’t always go according to plan. That was the case when I chose to review The Pit and the Pendulum. Looking back on the film, I realize this change of plans ended up being a good thing. For starters, I had the opportunity to review one of Vincent’s films on his birthday, which happens to be today. The film in question was also a pleasant surprise because of how good it was! The Pit and the Pendulum is an engaging and intriguing mystery from start to finish. This is one of the more effective horror movies, similar to titles like 1962’s Cape Fear. Vincent Price is one of those actors I’ve come to appreciate the more of his films I watch. After watching The Song of Bernadette, I thought it would be so cool to hear Vincent read some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work. Because of his involvement in The Pit and the Pendulum, my wish kind of came true. I also discovered, in 1970, Vincent was the narrator of An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe. Since I enjoyed the 1961 adaptation so much, I’ll have to seek that production out!

Overall score: 8.1-8.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum? Did you read Edgar Allan Poe’s literary work? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Christine Review

On 18 Cinema Lane, most of the movies that I’ve reviewed so far have been Hallmark movies. While I enjoy watching and talking about these kinds of films, I also try my best to provide a variety of movies to discuss on my blog. Recently, I had the chance to watch Christine and felt that it would be a good opportunity to talk about something new on 18 Cinema Lane. This was the first time I had ever seen a John Carpenter directed film, but I have definitely heard of his cinematic projects over the years. While I don’t review rated R movies often, I watched a TV-14/PG-13 version of this film, so I consider Christine to be an exception. Now that we’ve gotten through the introductions, let’s buckle up and cruise through my review of Christine.

Christine movie poster
Christine poster created by Columbia Pictures. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ChristinePoster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I thought the cast of Christine was talented! The one actor that stood out to me, though, was Keith Gordon! His portrayal of Arnie Cunningham was so memorable and captivating, his performance stayed in my memory long after I watched the film. Arnie’s evolution was showcased so well in this movie, with Keith bringing the right amount of versatility that a role like this could have asked for. This is definitely one of the best acting performances in any of Stephen King’s book-to-film adaptations!

 

The soundtrack: Though most of the music in this movie was meant to sound and feel like tunes from decades past, I think it was a great component to the film! The collection of songs that was featured in the movie was all great! Whenever Christine was reacting to a particular situation, there was always a perfect song to match what she was thinking. I also liked the instrumental tunes that were used during suspenseful moments, as they really set the tone that the film wanted to achieve.

 

The cars: Even though the movie is all about Christine, she ended up stealing the show. The red car that was used to portray the titular character was absolutely gorgeous! Besides Christine, there were other nice-looking cars as well, such as Dennis’ blue car and Buddy’s silver car.

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Antique car image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/red-classic-car_803652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Dennis: John Stockwell did a good job portraying the character of Dennis Guilder! This character was not only well-acted, but also well-written. However, Dennis was not in the movie as much as I would have hoped. While the movie primarily focuses on Arnie’s transformation, it seems like most of Dennis’ significance is to, simply, be Arnie’s friend. Dennis does gain an important role in Christine, but that comes toward the end of the film.

 

The bullies: Similar to what I said about Dennis, each of the bullies in this film were well-acted. But I don’t feel that the bullies were well-written characters. To me, it seemed that these characters being mere bullies is what defined them. If that definition were to be taken away, these characters would be pretty weak. There also wasn’t any depth to these characters, like they were written into this story just for the sake of Arnie needing to have a conflict.

 

An anti-climatic ending: I’m not going to spoil anything if you haven’t seen Christine, but I thought the ending was very uneventful. For starters, this movie wasn’t as “scary” as I had expected. I know a story about a villainous car can sound silly, but this story was based on the novel by Stephen King, who is known for such literary works like Misery and The Shining. The plot itself did have some intrigue, but I just couldn’t take the idea of an angry car very seriously.

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Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

John Carpenter is known for directing some pretty scary films, such as The Thing and Halloween. Stephen King is famous for writing some pretty scary stories, such as Misery and The Shining, which were previously mentioned. On paper, this sounds like a one-in-a-million, horror movie “dream team”. Because of Mr. Carpenter directing a movie based on one of Mr. King’s books, I expected Christine to be scarier and more frightening. In reality, this movie did not reach my personal expectations. Though the film fell short of being remotely scary, I don’t think it was a terrible film. I have seen other movies based on Stephen King’s stories and while I don’t think it’s one of the best adaptations, it’s definitely not one of the worst. I think that a story about a villainous car was a creative concept, but in the end, it felt more silly than scary.

 

Overall score: 6.5 out of 10

 

Have you seen Christine? What’s your favorite Stephen King adaptation? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen