Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nicholas Medina slowly driven mad 


It is towards the end of the month, October 26th, and Vincent Price is just now showing up on the Telly. Timing is everything I guess. I own the MGM Midnite Movies release with House of Usher (1960) & Pit & the Pendulum (1961). One of my all-time favorite Octobers was 2008. These two were among several films that made the cut that year and a couple years ago these two were both a part of Halloween’s marathon of horror movies on Turner Classics. I knew going in to this year that House of Wax (1953) and The House on Haunted Hill (1959) are showing on Turner Classics on Halloween day so I will be watching those two then. I will try to carve out a slot for The Tingler (1959) at some point. Sufficed to say, Price was quite busy in the late 50s and early 60s…well up until the early 70s at least. House of Usher and P&P are just the easily accessible Poe/Corman/Price movies for me considering they are in my personal library so they get a bit more shine than some really good, often overlooked gems such as Tomb of Ligeia and Tales of Terror.



Mark Damon (Usher) and John Kerr (Pit) are basically the same character, though, as the outsiders who happen upon the unfortunate domains of Price’s Roderick Usher (Usher) and Nicholas Medina (Pit), castles resting away in isolation, filled with potential for tragedy and almost certainly cursed with the malady of generational evil. In Usher, Price is blond and “accursed” with “acute agony of the senses”. Noise makes him ache, too much light hurts his eyes, and when he’s touched it is outright painful. Usher insists that Damon (arriving to take Roderick’s sister back with him to Boston) just go back where he came, that the Ushers are doomed to die due to their corrupt bloodline. Price ends up so convinced his family should end at him and his sister that he has her buried in a tomb alive after she goes into a cataleptic sleep. Myrna Fahey, bloody hands, gone completely mad and running about the castle, looking to attack her brother while Damon is powerless to stop the inevitable Corman burning building collapse, is still a big part of why I love this movie. Price’s nagging brother, always intruding upon Damon and Fahey’s potential for happiness, is the nuisance that ultimately comes between any future they might have. The house really having a come-apart with its fissure, dust, and tremors just functions as symbolism for how the Ushers are with Damon (and the poor butler/manservant, Harry Ellerbe) caught in the middle of it all.






In the case of Kerr, in Pit, he’s arrived at the castle overlooking a seaside cliff to visit the grave of his sister, newly deceased (or so he thinks, as Kerr learns from those in attendance that his sister has supposedly been dead months), and possibly investigate the cause. This has a more active cast in it as Price isn’t as fundamentally front and center as much as a “patsy”, believing he’s being haunted by the ghost of his wife (Barbara Steele, more or less memorable for a closing shot that is badass), slowly driven mad. Steele’s hinted presence torments Price while Kerr is persistent in wanting answers, much to chagrin of the doctor (Antony Carbone) who pronounced her demise. Luana Anders is Price’s sister, pretty but more or less a blank canvas that never gets much color. She is the low-key and calm of the storm that works its turbulence in the house of Medina, with Kerr (much like Damon) caught in the crossfire of a betrayal, faked death, adultery, and torture Poe device. Patrick Westwood is the butler, a bit on the boring side. Corman’s casting in the film sides one way it seemed, as Kerr, Westwood, and Carbone all look similar, so none of them stand out really. Because Carbone factors into Price’s madness at the end and how Steele is officially introduced, he has a bit more color than Kerr and Westwood. But Price stretches a bit more in Pit than Usher as his character begins to lose his grip on his sanity, essentially transformed into his torturer psycho father by film’s end. The Iron Maiden factors beautifully in the end and the pendulum gets some real love, much like a film earlier in the month I watched with Lugosi watching as the father of the woman he obsesses for awaits what appears to be a split apart of his upper and lower torso in The Raven. The inclusion of the paint and that moody score at the credits was also a nice touch. Matte work to express distance I appreciated. This double feature is always a lot of fun, and I shouldn’t confine these movies as I do to October.

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