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The Pit & The Pendulum (1991)

Pit & the Pendulum coverStudio: Full Moon

Theatrical Release: June 27th, 1991

Blu-Ray Release: August 20th, 2013

Rating: R

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Review by Craig Sorensen

Very loosely based on the short story by literary legend Edgar Allen Poe, Stuart Gordon’s The Pit and the Pendulum is a looney hodge-podge of vaguely political/religious posturing and early ‘90s video exploitation.  Like a lot of Gordon’s oeuvre, the film is a healthy mix of horror, comedy and sex.  Unfortunately, like a lot of ‘90s horror films (especially from Charles Band’s Full Moon productions) it’s mostly forgettable.  Still, the film is a fun waste of an afternoon and is worth a look for Gordon completists.

Lance Henriksen (The Visitor) plays Torquemada, the church’s main man somewhere in the Spanish countryside during the Inquisition.  Of course, the power has completely gone to old Torque’s head and in a great opening scene he has a rotting corpse dragged out of it’s tomb and flogged to pieces in front of a grieving family, headed by Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (of course).  Torquemada later has the family tortured in front of the ravenous villagers (as part of a scheme to take the family’s estate which the church actually did quite a bit during the Inquisition).  This torture is interrupted by Maria (Rona De Ricci) and Antonio (Jonathan Fuller of Castle Freak).  Torquemada takes a liking to Maria and before you can say “Mark of the Devil” has her thrown in a dungeon under suspicion of witchcraft.  From here on out you can probably guess how things end up.  There’s a bit of heresy, kinky torture, sword fights and someone is eventually trapped under a pendulum.  Also Henriksen tells someone “Flog me” and Oliver Reed shows up to collect his paycheck.

So the film doesn’t really break much new ground (if you’ve seen Witchfinder General then you know what to expect here) but it moves pretty quickly and can be fun if you’re in the mood.  The film isn’t the most subtle of course but that’s par for the course for religious themed horror films I guess.  One thing that does kind of bother me about this film is that it actually introduces real magic.  Witches are real in this film.  Sure, they may not actually be evil emissaries of the devil, but they exist within the context of the story.  And I think that that lessens Torquemada’s madness.  He’s not completely insane because these women can curse people (and do in the film).  If it was all in his head then I think he would seem much more dangerous.  But I’m probably reading my own biases into the film.  It’s still ridiculous fun.

Full Moon’s Blu-Ray look OK, nothing too special but I wouldn’t say it looks particularly bad either.  It gets the job done.  It is an improvement over the DVD in any case so if you’re a fan or don’t have a copy yet then this is the way to go.  You also get a decent 5.1 surround mix.  Again, it gets the job done.  It’s not the best mix that I’ve ever heard but it’s certainly not the worst.  As far as extras are concerned, you get a couple of making of videos, a blooper reel (why doesn’t every disc have one?) and a collection of Full Moon trailers.

[Rating: 3]

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