“What are you doing here? Why don’t you go and torture some heretics?”
266With more in common with Witchfinder General and even, at a push, The Sword and the Sorcerer , than anything really related to Poe, Gordon’s The Pit And The Pendulum swings through a very entertaining arc that mixes bedevilry with medieval mania, and historical japery with baddie-flinging heroism and hair’s breadth escapes. It marks something of a slight departure for Gordon and Full Moon – there are no monsters and no demonic little people running amok – and acts as a great old school romantic adventure, albeit one with tongues getting ripped-out, people being burned alive and pits full of spikes. Oh, and let’s not forget Oliver Reed dressed up like a Christmas cracker!
Fans will lap it up, of course. But The Pit And The Pendulum is actually really fine entertainment from start to finish for anyone looking for a smidgeon of arcane escapism. There’s nothing new here, and the basics have all been covered in better and more taboo-breaking films from a long time before. But this is the garish, comic-book romp version of all of that. Gordon knows how to have fun, yet he is also pretty skilled at delivering a varied selection of themes and motivations – from the deranged to the honourable, and from the daft to the inspired – without beating you over the head with them. He has never topped his inventive and groundbreaking early days, but then so few cult horror filmmakers have, when you think about it. But he continued to churn out material that interested him and gave him the opportunity to set dress his pictures with unusual location and effects work.
This isn’t a bloody patch on Roger Corman’s glorious 1961 version … and we anticipate its arrival on Blu-ray with baited breath. But it is hard not to recommend this darkly depraved take, even if only to savour Lance Henriksen’s giddily foreboding turn … and the sight of a rat neatly sliced in-two.
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