The Pit And The Pendulum

The Pit And The Pendulum (1961)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders
Extras: Commentary Track, Rare Prologue, Theatrical Trailer

So far I have been very happy with MGM Home Entertainment’s treatment of Roger Corman’s classic horror films. ’The Pit And The Pendulum’ is another one that is now available as part of the ’Midnight Movies’ series of releases, and another true highlight in Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Starring Vincent Price, this is the story of madness, murder, revenge and desire. A story filled with eerie moments, creepy environments and sinister characters. In short, it is a true classic Poe story that has been masterfully been brought to screen by Roger Corman.

Unfortunately the DVD that MGM is presenting here is not quite as good as the previous ones in the series, such as ’The Fall Of The House Of Usher.’ Presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation, the 2.35:1 transfer is lacking serious detail and shows substantial grain. The print has not been cleaned up and is marred with scratches, dust marks, stains and dirt, unfortunately. Color reproduction is very good, though, and the psychedelic moments of the film come to vivid life in this presentation. Skin tones are naturally rendered and only occasionally are signs of discoloration and color shift evident. Fortunately the transfer is free of edge-enhancement, and blacks are deep and solid and don’t break up, creating shadows that lend a lot of depth to the picture. The compression of the video is adequate, although signs of pixelation are quite evident in a number of scenes, washing out additional detail from the image.

The disc contains the film’s original monaural English language track as well as a French language track. Both tracks are adequate, although they clearly give away the films’ age. With their limited frequency response, they create a very narrow and harsh presentation that is almost piercing at times. Noise and hiss is occasionally evident, as is sibilance in the dialogue recording.

Roger Corman’s audio commentary track is once again a beautiful addition to the release, offering so much insight and additional thoughts to the film that any fan should check it out. It is once again surprising how well prepared Corman is for the track and how clear his recollection is of a film he shot 40 years ago. I think it just shows how much he himself likes these Poe adaptations he did.

As a special, the disc also contains a 5-minute prologue to the film that has not been released on home video before – at least not to my knowledge. Called the original theatrical prologue, I found this addition very interesting and appealing.

Although the disc clearly falls short in technical terms, ’The Pit And The Pendulum’ is another great Poe adaptation that Roger Corman created. For that alone I feel no real fan of classic horror should miss out on this release. It would be nice, though, if MGM would consider revisiting this film at one point to give it the presentation it really deserves.