Pit and the Pendulum

You’d be forgiven for expecting the mystery bus and the Scooby Doo gang to rock up at any point in the first half an hour of the Pit and the Pendulum. A woman has died and her brother, months later, has only just been informed. He needs to get to the bottom of it and everyone is acting a little wonky, from the lord of the manor to the decidedly dodgy servants. The expectation that someone could pull off a mask at any point and decry their guilt in the face of the meddling kids wanes towards the end of the film though, and director Corman does an amazing job of replacing itwith a real sense of menace and tension, all the more surprising given that there is so little scenery left after Vincent Price has chewed his way through it. The setting helps a lot, a creepy haunted castle with a labyrinthine basement full of torture equipment left over from the Spanish inquisition. Nicholas Medina (Price) is grappling with the death of his wife in the face of her brothers questioning (John Kerr) when it all goes awry, which basically means lots of people wandering around in period costume (even when they were supposed to be in bed), knocking on each others doors and calling each other sir even when accusing each other of heinous crimes. This is all cut together with menacing shots of the waves crashing against the shore below the castle and outrageous becobwebbed secret passages. What I am trying to say is that its all brilliantly good fun and about as scary as a kitten. It will keep you guessing though, for about three minutes, and as I said, the climax really is something, especially as it really is predicated on a plot that honestly wouldn’t seem out of place with a visit from the Mystery Bus.

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