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John’s Horror Corner: The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), easily the worst movie ever made attempting to honor Edgar Allen Poe’s work

June 30, 2013

MY CALL:  Absolutely meritless; not even funny if you’ve been drinking.  Never ever watch this and don’t trust the reviews on Amazon!  HFS this was bad.  WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD:  If you want torture then you’ve come to the wrong place.  And yeah, we have zealots pointing fingers and spouting threats, but that’s done poorly, too.  If this is the flavor you want I’d instead turn to Children of the Corn (1984) or Frailty (2001).

Just a typical Wednesday afternoon in 1492 Spain.

Director Stuart Gordon (The Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, Dagon) brought Edgar Allen Poe’s 1492 Spanish Inquisition tale to film for a second time (the first time being in 1961).  However, other than the obvious presence of a pendulum and some clear allusions to Poe’s other works, this story hardly seems the work of Poe.

“Oh, yeah. She’s DEFINITELY a witch! We’ll try her next.”

Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen; Aliens, Pumpkinhead) emcees public witch-burnings in the name of religion while hamming up archaic holy canon before an audience of peasants.  During one of his burn rallies he accuses an innocent baker’s wife Maria (Rona De Ricci; she’s been in only one other movie) of witchcraft.  Torquemada is fanatical and exhibits masochistically penitent tendencies.   During Maria’s witch trial, her first test is being forcibly disrobed for her examination by Torquemada’s lecherous, corrupt men.  “To resist is to admit guilt,” they say.  I guess political sexual intimidation was a lot easier back in the day.

“You really need to see me naked?”

“Yes.  How else would we tell if you were a witch?”

The movie follows Maria’s ongoing interrogation, Torquemada’s inappropriate fixation on her, and her husband’s attempts to save her in sort of a prison break scenario.

As Francisco, Jeffrey Combs (The Re-Animator, From Beyond) looks charming in his black tights, poofy-dress-like garb and bobbed hair.  This role is Combs’ only mistake bigger than signing on to do Lurking Fear.  Also keep an eye out for the woman who played Happy Gimore‘s grandma as Esmerelda.  Realizing that’s who she was may have been the most enjoyable part of this movie.

“Isn’t that the grandma from Happy Gilmore?”

Do you think she’ll see Shooter McGavin in Hell?

Despite the many positive reviews on Amazon, I fail to see any merit in this movie.  The utterly hokey acting and wardrobe truly fail to do Poe any justice, and the limited blood and lame violence do not serve us well to make up for it…I even felt guilty watching the tasteless scenes with nudity since it felt like they were done simply to get teenagers excited.  I’m fine with gratuitous nudity–but it wasn’t even laughable here.  This was simply all sorts of bad and any attempts to defend it would be wasted on me.

This movie made less sense as it persisted and become accordingly less satisfying.  I admit that I laughed, but my eyes almost rolled out of their sockets during the ill-conceived “action-packed” finale complete with swinging pendulum, flesh-eating rats, swordplay and fire-shooting from the floor.

Maria the witch has warned you: “Skip this movie!”

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