“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Pit and the Pendulum” was another of the Troll Communications adaptations stocked in my grade-school library. The Haunted Closet has a great bunch of scans from it.
While “Masque of the Red Death” has some clear allegorical content, “The Pit and the Pendulum” is a pretty straight-forward tale. Our first-person narrator is a heretic (of some sort) and sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition. Except, since an auto da fé has recently taken place, his punishment is actually to be tortured until he dies or until the next scheduled “sacrifice” by fire. Our narrator is put in a very dark room with a pit in the center. When he fails to fall in, he’s tied down with a gradually lowering razor sharp pendulum. When he manages to escape, the walls of his cell become glowing hot and begin to move inward, forcing him toward the pit. Each torture is more phantasmagorical than the last, each requiring more complex machines and architecture. Our narrator is then rescued at the last moment by a General Lasalle, placing this Spanish Inquisition in the early 1800s.
Really, “The Pit and the Pendulum” is more like the “torture porn” movies of the the early 2000s. Now, I have nothing against those kind of movies, I even enjoy them on a certain level. Indeed, I enjoy “The Pit and the Pendulum” as well. There is a certain satisfaction to characters attempting to use ingenuity to extricate themselves from hopeless situations.
Extraordinary Tales (2013)
Directed by Raul Garcia
Narrations by Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Julian Sands, Guillermo del Toro, Roger Corman, Stephen Hughes, and Cornelia Funke.
Extraordinary Tales is an animated anthology of five Poe stories, each animated in a different style with different narrators. The wrap-around involves the spirit of Poe still on earth as a raven as Death tries to woo him.
Some of the adaptations are more successful than others.
The first tale is “The Fall of the House of Usher” narrated by Christopher Lee. This was one of Lee’s last pieces of work and I can’t think of too many people more up to the task. The angular animated caricatures and rich, dark colors are pretty wonderful.
My personal favorite is the mostly black and white animation of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” visually inspired by the art of Alberto Breccia. The slick animation is a great contrast to the hiss-and-pop recording of Bela Lugosi as our narrator.
Being a fan of Julian Sands, I wanted to like “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” more than I did. The narration was fine. The animation style is evocative of EC horror comics, but the color palate seemed off to me. Plus, there’s not too much story to “M. Valdemar.” It is a curious choice for adaptation.
I didn’t care for the animation style of “The Pit and the Pendulum” at all. While shooting for realism, the presumably computer generated characters felt unsubstantial and somewhat fell into uncanny valley. The being said, Guillermo del Toro was a great selection for narrator.
I’m sort of torn by “The Masque of the Red Death.” The animation is like vivid water color paintings brought to life, but it actually lacked narration. Other than a couple words spoken by Prince Prospero (voiced by Roger Corman), the story is told in images and music only. “Masque” is an incredibly visual story and is well-“told” in this format, but I did miss the beauty of Poe’s language.
Through out this anthology is music written by Sergio de la Puente. It’s a soundtrack worthy of any Halloween or writing playlist.