Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Spain, 1546. Mr Barnard (Kerr) comes from England to see where and how his beloved sister Elizabeth (Steele) died. He meets his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Price) and his sister Catherine (Anders) and is offered a strange and vague explanation of Elizabeth’s death.

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“Suffocation from too-tight corset” is not among the excuses. Neither is “tripped over own voluminous skirt and broke neck.”

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Family doctor Leon (Carbone) later reveals to the grieving brother that his sister died of fright. Since more details are surely required after such a statement, Medina confesses that his bride had become obsessed with the inquisition era torture chamber in the cellar, and that she perished in an Iron Maiden.

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We’ve always felt that a house is not a home without a fireplace, a lounge area, and an indoor torture chamber. We’re having ours installed next weekend.

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But is this all there is to it? Barnard is still not satisfied, and as we delve deeper into the house’s secrets, we learn that Medina’s father killed his brother and wife in the chamber when his children were young. Young Nicholas witnessed the ordeal and was never the same again.

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Exhibit A: this is now his default resting face

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As Medina devolves into madness, strange things also begin to happen in the castle… So what really happened to Elizabeth? Is she haunting them? Or was she buried prematurely, House of Usher-style?

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And why didn’t anyone bother informing doctor Leon of the dress code for the evening? These questions will haunt us…

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Pit and the Pendulum has everything we love: Gothic castles, secret passageways, hidden torture chambers, ghosts, murder, madness and torture. It is morbid, grotesque and lovely, and we completely adored Vincent Price as the confused, distressed widower. Barbara Steele’s eyes are as haunting as they were in Black Sunday, and she is the perfect Gothic heroine/villain (take your pick here). Personally, we are of course suckers for anything Poe (and Corman. And Price.), so we had no choice but to include this even though it is no longer on the list. It’s fantastic!

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Best watched by squinting from inside an Iron Maiden. Well, we say “best”…

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What we learned: Crazy is hereditary.

Next time: Carnival of Souls (1961)

#154 The Incredible Shrinking Man

Watched: December 10 2017

Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, Paul Langton, April Kent, Raymond Bailey, William Schallert

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 21min

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Somewhere at sea, a young couple are enjoying a day out on a boat. Louise (Stuart – who we absolutely adored), goes below deck to get Scott (Williams) a drink, and suddenly the man is enveloped by a mysterious, glittery mist.

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“Oh no! This must be one of those evil, communist, homosexual fogs that turn you gay!”

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Although he has no immediate ill effects, after a few months Scott remarks that all his clothes have become too big. Not by a lot, but definitely noticeable. A doctor’s appointment confirms that he is in fact shrinking, and together with medical experts the Carey’s start on their quest to save Scott from a terrible fate.

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“I’m not shrinking. We just underestimated the size of the new furniture we ordered.”

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As Scott shrinks, so does his self-esteem. He becomes angry and hostile towards his wife, with whom he no longer feels like the “man” of the household. He also grows increasingly pretentious as he tries to put his own existence into cosmic perspective. Or something. Oh, and he also has to go into battle with a house cat and a spider, which is less philosophical and more action packed.

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Exploring the usefulness of sewing supplies does not threaten your masculinity. Especially when you use said supplies to battle killer spiders.

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Based on a novel by Richard Matheson, The Incredible Shrinking Man explores identity, masculinity and fancy ’50s atomic science. Scott starts off as a normal, likable man in a happy marriage, but as he shrinks he becomes hostile and erratic. Then again, everything around him becomes increasingly dangerous, so you can’t really blame him for some of his attitude. Except for his anger with his adorable wife.

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“My stupid wife and her stupid cat!”

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It’s a great, old, classic science fiction film, and (most of) the special effects hold up really well even 60 years later. Scott isn’t a particularly likable protagonist/narrator, but it’s still a very entertaining watch, even if from the beginning you get a strong feeling that there’s no way this will end well.

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There’s a feeling of doom even before they bring carnies into the mix

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What we learned: To God there is no zero. Also, avoid being enveloped by mysterious fogs.

Next time: The Monolith Monsters (1957)