The Pit and the Pendulum (Corman, 1961)

A recurring theme explored throughout Edgar Allen Poe’s work, is the idea, or the fear of being buried alive. The Pit and the Pendulum is no different, when a man is distraught because he fears he accidentally buried his (thought to be dead) wife. Something about this fascinates me, the idea of accidentally burial seems like a fairly archaic fear, prevalent throughout 18th century gothic horror. Was it a real concern? I’m having a hard time finding much information through a few quick Google searches, though I imagine the more primitive the medicine, the more likely “accidents” will happen. Then again, thinking about it, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy herself fears more than, perhaps anything else, being buried alive… and the idea is explored several times to truly horrifying results.

I think, also within the realm of horror there is something concretely haunting about a ghost, who is not actually a ghost… but rather a real person tormented by the claustrophobia of enclosure. Terrifying on many levels, only life becomes more horrifying than death.

This film was far better than I could have expected, I’m not particularly fond of gothic horror transferred to film. It often feels stiff and the horror is rarely particularly effective. This film take a while to get on it’s feet, and it’s only in the last half hour or so that it becomes gripping and scary. The film is never boring though, it just spends a lot of time building it’s mystery and atmosphere. The film has quite effective imagery, and takes surprising risks. The final moment is especially brilliant, they could not have end it on a better note.

Overall, I remember Corman’s House of Usher being better, though I certainly need to revisit it.

8 responses to “The Pit and the Pendulum (Corman, 1961)

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