The Pit and the Pendulum Review

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It’s time to look at one of those horror films where you know that someone’s gonna turn crazy from the get go. It takes place at an old castle and people have been mysteriously dying. You can’t really draw any other conclusion than this as a result right? The cast of characters is rather small, but as all of them are fairly annoying you begin to wish there were even fewer characters. It’s a pretty bad film that just stays very dreary throughout. You’ll be waiting for some life to be inserted into the film only to no avail.

The film starts off with Francis running to the mansion of Nicholas since he has heard that his sister died. Nicholas explains that she was sick, but forgets to get on the same page as Doctor Leon so the story is botched from the start. Francis quickly demands an explanation, but he isn’t getting one. That’s when Nicholas starts to go crazy and the cast hears a ghost from the great beyond. Is it possible that the sister still is in fact alive or is there something else at play here?

First off, the villains aren’t very smart here. So of course, you’ve got the “ghost.” Her role is to convince Nicholas that he is insane so his mind can break and she can then finish him off. The problem is that turning him insane would likely just make him even more dangerous so I don’t see how that would help. The odds of Nicholas just fainting and dying the way that they all envisioned just doesn’t seem all that likely. Even when the plan seems to work they don’t try finishing him off. Instead they decide to waste time gloating about it and rubbing their victory in his face. Naturally Nicholas doesn’t like this very much and retaliates.

Meanwhile you have Francis who is oblivious to all of this. He starts off by talking a big game, but very quickly you realize that this is all hot air. He is completely outmatched against the others. Nicholas takes him out with a single back hand. Sure, Francis was right to be skeptical so it’s good that he didn’t leave but at the same time he should have been more afraid to fight. What was his plan if Nicholas was the cruel murderer that Francis thought he might be? The lead can’t fight for beans so I think he should have thought this whole thing through a little more.

Then you’ve got the tragic backstory for Nicholas which just makes everyone look even worse. It turns out that his Uncle and Mother colluded against his father in secret so the guy murdered both of them. Now in the present this situation has gone full circle with other characters. That’s why you probably want to be careful when your house has an actual torture chamber inside of it. Definitely a very dark element and it’s used in both the flashback and the present day adventure. Even the twist ending opts to go for a more tragic route as opposed to being a hype one where the monster escapes. Someone is stuck in a cage with no foreseeable way out which is a pretty brutal way to go.

I suppose the script isn’t all that bad. The characters are all very theatrical and like to make sure that everyone knows what a tough journey they’ve had. All of the characters throw a lot of banter around and speak on each other’s behalf. You’re supposed to trust person B because A says so and vice versa. With nobody willing to tell the full truth you have to discern what is happening based on obvious plot devices and the subtext of what they’re saying. Unfortunately Francis isn’t quite ready for such a revelation.

While the character he is playing is no good, Vincent Price still does a good job of playing the same character he always does. He’s one of the most consistent actors from back in the day. I can’t say that I really follow too many actors/actresses because acting ability tends to look basically the same to me regardless of who it is, but in the modern day Tom Cruise is an example of a solid actor who always seems to be playing the same character and that’s why it works well. Likewise Vincent Price seemed to be that way in the old adventures. No matter what character he is playing you will likely recognize the guy almost immediately. It’s also the tip off to how you know he will turn evil by the end. That’s basically how it always goes.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend checking this film out. If you want a grim tale from the olden days then this could work for you though. One aspect of these old films that makes the situations feel a lot more dangerous than modern ones is the fact that nobody is around to help. This film takes place in a very remote area where nobody lives for miles. You can’t hail a cab and there aren’t any cell phones either. Escape would be rather difficult at best and while Francis could still make a run for it, you can see why the situation is rather dire. It’s hard to recreate that sense of tension in a modern film although I’m sure they try their best. Now, if you want a much better horror film with plot twists and a character trying to find out the truth, check out the edited version of House instead. Now that one delivers on being quality entertainment.

Overall 2/10

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The Black Cat Review

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Have you ever seen a film that was very different from what you expected? That happened to me with this film as I just expected a completely different plot and the whole film was as radically different as any I’ve ever seen. Luckily, this was in a good way! As much as a horror film about a Black Cat knocking everyone would have been entertaining, a classic “Who Did It” murder mystery is infinitely better. Aside from one mistake, the film does quite well, but it is unfortunately a big mistake!

An old lady is near death so her family members quickly head to her mansion so that they can pick up their inheritance. If they don’t like what they receive, they are prepared to attack her if necessary. Luckily, they all receive a decent amount of money so they are pleased, but the lady announces that this only comes to pass once her maid is dead as the cats need to be taken care of. One of the family members doesn’t like this and quickly stabs her. With the old lady out of the way, the main characters must figure out who did it as the body count will only rise from here!

One difference in this film compared to the average murder mystery is that the body count isn’t actually that high. The suspense is mostly grabbed by near deaths and the ominous feeling that someone is always watching you. Also, it isn’t played completely serious as it is part comedy. Similar to another murder mystery film that I saw a while back, whose title escapes me. The light tone with the classic mystery make for a winning formula in terms of how interesting the film is.

As this film came out in the very early 1940’s, you can expect that the writing is quite good as well. That makes all the difference in any mystery title and I can almost certainly guarantee that a modern version would not be nearly as good in this area. Whether it be the subtle threats or the not to subtle ones, you just don’t see dialogue like this nowadays. The film is a little on the short side, but there’s still enough time to flesh out the characters and not have a rushed ending.

The film does a good job of making everyone look a little suspicious. There’s the main character who really reminded me of Bill Murray from Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. Seriously, the guy looks almost identical to him complete with the voice and a similar role. He was definitely one of the best parts of the film and I’d say that he earned the role of best character. As he’s the main character, most of what we see is from his side of the story, but you can never discount the lead as they sometimes don’t tell you everything. I was rooting for him to close the deal though!

The main character’s friend is here to break things to make them more valuable in the future. He’s extremely scatter brained to the point where he can never follow a sentence and it takes him hours to realize what people knew in seconds. He was a fun character as he constantly trolled the rest of the cast and found the secret passages before anyone else. He was in danger many times, but the good part about being oblivious is that fear won’t slow you down! Naturally, he’s suspicious because you have to wonder if it is all truly an act.

Next up, we have the family of three. There’s the step son who threatens his step father several times not to break his mother’s heart as he knows that the guy is cheating with someone else. Considering the threats and how much the money would help him, it’s obvious why this guy is a suspect. Likewise, if the father is willing to cheat on his elderly wife, we don’t know what he is capable of! He definitely wants the money from the will as he constantly yells about it. Maybe he wants it for sinister purposes!

His elderly wife is always in the background and prefers to let everyone else to the talking. She keeps up the pretense of liking the old lady even though everyone else constantly insults her and just waits for her inheritance. Is it possible that she actually cares or is she just playing along to throw away suspicion from herself? There’s the main heroine who believes that no murders took place and that her family are still decent people deep down who wouldn’t cross this line. She tries to distract the main character from this train of thought several times. Is it possible that she is right or does she just want us to think that?

Rounding up the list of suspects are out final members. We have the maid who threatened that the heroes would leave the house one way or the other. Wow, that’s pretty ominous right? A bit obvious, but perhaps that’s the point to lower our guard! There’s also the grounds servant, Eduwardo. He is always listening and watching from outside and he has free reign over the place. He would certainly have the time to commit the acts and the motive as well since he received almost nothing from the will in the end. Finally, we have the old lady. Maybe she cheated death somehow by using a fake poison right?

So, we definitely have a lot of suspects. I’m glad to say that the film doesn’t cheat with the final verdict. The culprit does have a good motive and was one of the suspects so that was good. Cop outs are the one thing that you don’t want in a mystery film! The opening of the film reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. The mask party one where the relatives all wanted the old man to die and ultimately had their true faces exposed to everyone. The opening was definitely similar and I wouldn’t be surprised if one borrowed from the other.

This film would have been an easy 7, but there was one big mistake, which really hurt it. Unfortunately, one of the cats is poisoned and died. That was a really low blow and it definitely hurt the film. At least the cat wasn’t injured as that would have been even worse, but the death still ensured that I wouldn’t be giving this film any higher than a 5. It’s just hard to recommend a film with animal violence like this at times. For a show that has over 200 episodes or a long series like that, it’s much easier, but a single film….it’s just not happening. This was the one big mistake that the film made, but boy was it a big one!

The romance angle was surprisingly nonexistent for the most part. Of course, we have the main character and heroine who are polite to each other, but it never goes anywhere which is nice and realistic. There’s also the cheating subplot, but it also doesn’t really go anywhere. I’d say that this is a good thing as those plots weren’t needed to make the film be enjoyable anyway. As it stands, most of the character personalities were enjoyable, which really helped the film.

Overall, The Black Cat was much better than I anticipated. The score was lower due to the animal violence, but otherwise it was essentially the ideal mystery. It’s short, but there are no cop outs and the writing as done quite well. The film was pretty funny without going over the top in the comedy aspect. It wasn’t much of a problem back in the day though as the humor was almost always great or you would just miss the joke, but we never saw the kind of jokes that you see in something like Pixels. The horror aspects were also handled well as you would see an ominous hand reach out to take someone down or someone’s frightened expression as they realized that they were doomed. From the classics, this one easily takes down Frankenstein and Dracula without a doubt! In pure entertainment value, this would probably beat all of the other Universal classics.

Overall 5/10