Today – VINCENTENNIAL: THEATRE OF BLOOD, PIT AND THE PENDULUM
THEATRE OF BLOOD will play at the Vincentennial Vincent Price Film Festival in a 35mm print at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 21st at the Hi-Pointe Theatre. Ticket information can be found HERE
In the early 1907′s Vincent Price’s career was at a high point. The Doctor Phibes films were unexpected hits. How would he capitalize on these? In 1973 he took on a role in a film with a similar plot structure. In fact, many fright film fans consider THEATRE OF BLOOD an unofficial finale in a Phibes trilogy. Produced by United Artists rather then American International BLOOD differed from the Phibes film in that it was set in modern times and boasted one of the most prestigious casts that Price ever worked with. Price portrays Edward Lionheart , a stage actor thought to be dead , who returns to murder the critics that denied him a thespian award. Many of Britain’s finest stage and screen actors appear to be having a blast as the victims. The members of the Critic’s Circle are Michael Hordern, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Arhur Lowe, Robert Morley, Dennis Price, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, and Ian Hendry (his character is the only critic who has some sympathy for Lionheart ). Diana Rigg plays Lionheart’s daughter Edwina, a movie make up artist. Hendry and Rigg were both part of the TV series ‘The AvengerS’, he in the first episodes as Dr. David Keel and she achieving worldwide fame later as Emma Peel. Speaking of TV, in 1989 Ms. Rigg would take over hosting duties from Mr. Price on the PBS ‘Mystery’ series. In later years Price would refer to BLOOD as his favorite horror film for several reasons. The ingenious script has Edward dispatching the critics in murder scenes inspired by deaths in Shakespeare’s plays. This gave Price a chance to recreate several of the classic roles. He also gets to assume several disguises: a bobby, French chef, swishy hairdresser, and a masseuse who tricks Hawkins into believing his wife ( played by the British Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors ) is having an affair a la ‘Othello’. Price may also have had a soft spot for this film as he met the woman who would be his last wife, Coral Browne. The film has some great comic relief from Milo O’Shea and Eric Sykes as investigating officers who seem always two steps behind Edward. The film has great location work ( nothing was shot on studios sets ), brisk direction, and a witty script that blends suspense and humor. Vincent Price is a delight in this, perhaps, his last great horror film.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM will play at the Vincentennial Vincent Price Film Festival at 5:00pm on Saturday, May 21st at the Hi-Pointe Theatre. With a pre-film performance of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” by John Contini as Vincent Price, and an introduction and post-film discussion by Jonathan Malcolm Lampley, author of Women in the Horror Films of Vincent Price. Ticket information can be found HERE
Not much of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story which shares its title is on screen besides the eponymous torture device, but thanks to a deft screenplay by Richard Matheson, a pitch-perfect performance by Vincent Price, sure handed direction by Roger Corman, and the inspired casting of Barbara Steele, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM is an epic helping of gothic grand guignol that deserves its place on the top of this list. Vincent Price’s Don Medina is a much more lively than his Roderick Usher form the previous year. Price was often accused of overacting, but his frantic scenery-chewing was the correct style for this material. The casting of the otherworldly Barbara Steele shows that American International was properly impressed with her horror debut in the previous year’s BLACK SUNDAY (as they should have been), the Italian film they distributed and this was her stateside debut. Steele is something to behold in THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, slinking and smirking like a deranged cat around the torture chamber, driving Price and the audience to delirium. Steele wasn’t long for Hollywood though. She fled the set of an Elvis film the next year and returned to Europe where she starred in a string of unparalleled gothic horrors. Corman’s camera stays in time to the berserk performances of his two horror stars, as he experiments with odd lens techniques and hallucinatory framing and you’d never guess that THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM was shot on for only $200,000 as it is consistently dazzling to look at with spooky color camerawork by Floyd Crosby and imposing art design by Daniel Haller. Stock footage of the climactic torture sequence would later find its way into the 1966 spy spoof DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE, which also starred Vincent Price as well as GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI (also 1966). THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM is a fantastic and fascinating viewing experience that just keeps getting better with age.