For those in the know, there’s a special place in the heart of the Surgeons team for the work of Stuart Gordon. If you haven’t already, please check out our podcast episodes on Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, and Dolls.
Links are found at the end of this article.
At the time that we recorded these episodes, I remarked that we had neglected to include his take on the Edgar Allan Poe novella, The Pit and the Pendulum.
Now celebrating 30 years since its release, it seems as good a time as any to retrospectively look back at this film which starred Lance Henriksen.
Upon review, this clearly isn’t Gordon’s finest hour behind the camera, but that’s not to say that there’s not fun to be had in viewing the movie, and most of that is in part due to Henriksen’s performance, quietly subdued take of the evils that humans resort to in the name of lust and infatuation.
Henriksen plays the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada, during the torturous time of 15th Century Spain. His tirade has no bounds until he meets Maria (Rona De Ricci) and is immediately enamoured by her beauty. Torquemada struggles with the conflict that arises between his infatuation towards Maria and his devotion to the Church and decides to repress his sinful ways and subject his cruel desires outwardly, charging Maria with witchcraft and a trial by torture.
Whilst imprisoned by a confessed Witch, Esmerelda (Frances Bay – Arachnophobia, Critters 3, In the Mouth of Madness). Here, Maria’s upturned world suddenly spawns new life and the possibility of something beyond our imaginations, but when her husband’s failed attempt to rescue sends him to the new torture device, the pit and the pendulum, is it all too late for resurrection to save him from certain doom.
The Pit and the Pendulum suffers from adding little substance to the subject at hand and while it isn’t a terrible film, it does fail to spark the imagination from a director known to stimulate the visual senses. It does boast the great Jeffrey Combs aka Herbert West in Re-Animator amongst the cast, but there’s not enough primordial fat for either Combs nor Henriksen to chew upon to make the film stand out. Instead it simmers rather than scorches the fiery subject matter.
It could have been so much more, but quite possibly the adaptation was a step to far for Gordon to handle or make his own, reduced to the shadows of Roger Corman and Vincent Price’s classic take from the sixties.
- Saul Muerte