Pit and the Pendulum (Corman, 1961)

Kind of bat-shit crazy unlike anything I’ve seen recently. Vincent Price’s facial contortions, the pitch of his screams, and anguish of his tormented ¬†eyes, all create a form of shredded mania, a personal goblin of guilt walled in by Roger Corman’s exaggerated period-piece decor.

The motif of entrapment plays out in gloriously grotesque flashbacks, splintered by dripping hallucinating color, coming to a head in a diabolical torturous finale. The key to Pit and the Pendulum resides in the shifty eyes of the characters, as their sanity jumps off the ledge into a collective place of lucid horror, each responding to one howl then the next, searching for a phantasm that only exists on the inside.

Yet Corman’s adaptation of Poe feels almost lackadaisical structurally, a fleeting acid trip ahead of its time but too stoned to know it. Aside from Price, the wooden cast sheds bark all over, looking on in horror as their various evils manifest themselves in this morphing vision of anguish and revenge. When the hatchet drops, the pit delivers a seething dose of sin, but it’s too bad Price’s mad dog of a character must be put down to restore order. His improvisational torture chamber seems ripe with possibility, narratively of course.