Blu-ray Movie Review – The Pit & The Pendulum (1991)

The Pit & The Pendulum
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Courtesy of Full Moon Features
Original Release Date: 1991
Blu-ray Release Date: August 20, 2013


I can’t recall if I’ve stated this in the past or not, but I will make this proclamation now: in my eyes, Stuart Gordon can do no wrong. He is responsible for some of my favorite horror films of all time, including RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, and DAGON. As you can see, he’s an aficionado of Lovecraft, another trait that gives him uber points in my book. Thanks to the fine folks at Full Moon, I got to check out one of his older titles on Blu-ray, specifically THE PIT & THE PENDULUM. I’d never seen this film prior to watching it now, but I loved it. It boasts an excellent cast and Gordon’s trademark style of filmmaking.

If you are not familiar with THE PIT & THE PENDULUM, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Full Moon Features:

In the quest to save souls, the Spanish Inquisition will stop at nothing and knows no boundaries for its evil. Under the direction of Torquemada (LANCE HENRIKSEN – “Alien,” “Pumpkinhead,” “Millennium”) the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, a young baker’s wife, Maria (RONA DE RICCI) is falsely accused of witchcraft and dragged before the inquisition and the Cardinal (OLIVER REED – “Gladiator,” “Three Musketeers”). Torquemada is enchanted by Maria’s beauty and subjects her and her husband Antonio (JONATHAN FULLER – “Castle Freak”) to heinous tortures hoping to prove that his own desires for her are a result of her magic, and that she has “bewitched him.” With the help of Esmerelda, Maria’s cellmate and confessed witch, Maria must find the power to save her husband Antonio from Torquemada’s ultimate machine of torture: the inevitable, razor sharp PENDULUM poised over the inescapable PIT of hell.

I realize THE PIT & THE PENDULUM has been out on Blu-ray for a while now, but I simply never got around to buying it. I wish I had, though, because this is a definite Must Have for any horror fan’s movie library. It’s got great acting, great gore, and plenty of intensity. You can’t ask for much more out of a horror film.

THE PIT & THE PENDULUM is shot well and looks great onscreen. This is especially impressive when you consider Gordon’s budget was cut way back prior to filming. According to the featurette on the Blu-ray, Gordon relates the story of how he was all set to film in England with Peter O’Toole as the lead; but at the last moment, the company producing the film backed out. Enter Charles Band, who saves the day by producing the film and providing a castle in Italy in which to shoot. I honestly couldn’t see anyone else other than Full Moon backing this film; it’s a definite feather in the company’s cap, and a proud addition to their canon.

As I mentioned above, the acting is excellent with one of my favorite actors, Lance Henriksen heading up the cast. He is joined by Jeffrey Combs and Oliver Reed, who are always a pleasure to see onscreen. Actress Rona De Ricci portrays Maria and does a top notch job; I was surprised to discover she has done nothing else since. Actor Jonathan Fuller plays her husband, Antonio, and is great as well. He would go on to join with Gordon again on CASTLE FREAK.

The gore in THE PIT & THE PENDULUM is fantastic, and there’s quite a bit of it. From burning a witch alive to the torture scenes, you’ll get some choice tidbits of carnage here. And, in true Stuart Gordon fashion, it does not disappoint.

THE PIT & THE PENDULUM on Blu-ray is a huge win for me, and I recommend adding this to your horror library if you haven’t already. If you only have it on DVD, do yourself a favor and snag the Blu-ray; in addition to a widescreen presentation in HD, you get high-quality sound and even a Special Features Blooper Reel. This is available now, so pick it up today.


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