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Showing 1-10 of 47 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 54 reviews
on April 20, 2009
Another volume of MGM's 2-on-1 discs of classic horror brings us two of Vincent Price's most famous films this time around, 'The Fall Of The House Of Usher' (aka simply 'House Of Usher') and the 1961 version of 'The Pit And The Pendulum'. Both are based on Edgar Allan Poe short stories, both are adapted by Richard Matheson and both directed by Roger Corman. This particular clique brought out a lot of good horror mysteries in the 60s.

In Usher, a young man arrives at the vast manor of the Usher family looking for his missing fiancee, only to find her there very ill and in the care of her older brother Roderick (Price) and the family's servant. Roderick is mentally unwell, that's easy to see from the start, and his senses seem to have sharpened to a superhuman degree. Aware of the bloody history of some of the Usher family's more brutal ancestors, Roderick considers the entire Usher bloodline a bane upon the world, that'll go on to do even greater harm in the future unless it's eradicated, as the recently arrived suitor (Phillip, played by Mark Damon) of Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey) realizes to his horror, and with the surviving members of the clan present, Phillip fears that Roderick is going to take it onto himself to do just that. This is one of Vincent's more sympathetic and tragic roles - Roderick isn't evil, just insane, and even through that insanity loves his family dearly, which makes what he's contemplating all the harder. 'House Of Usher' is very well done - certain technical aspects aren't as good as they would have been if done just a decade or so later (it was released in 1960), but the use of color, sound and atmosphere combine for good effect. The movie works on many levels, and on its own would get a four-star rating.

In 'The Pit And The Pendulum' - perhaps packaged with 'Usher' because of similar themes - Price is once again subject to paranoia and delusions, this time as Nicolas Medina, son of one of the most notorious and sadistic torturers of the Spanish Inquisition, the late Sebastian Medina. Price is terrified the cruelty and the madness of his father will pass down through the blood, and though Nicolas is a kindly family patriarch, he fears eventually becoming just like his father. New events in the family home are indeed threatening to drive Nicolas over the edge - his recently deceased wife (Barbara Steele) is appently haunting the place, blaming Nicolas for her untimely demise. Or is someone merely trying to make him think his bride has come back from the dead? Or is it all in poor Vincent's head? The movie is admittedly too slow-paced for at least the first half of its running time (not a bad first half, but definately could have been punched up a bit) but improves in its latter sections, with a brilliant final fifteen minutes or so that gives us perhaps Price's singlemost memorable moment on film (I believe you'll know it when you see it). On its own, I'd give Pit And The Pendulum 3-and-a-half stars. By the way, the 1991 version of The Pit And The Pendulum is so radically different from the Price/Corman one that it shouldn't even count as a remake. (The original short story was so short that, if filmed literally, it would have been maybe five to ten minutes long, so it was greatly embellished for its filmings, just in different ways). That version is also very good - totally different story and much bloodier. It's available in The Stuart Gordon Presents Box Set, along with 'Castle Freak' and 'Deathbed', for anyone who's interested in seeing both adaptations.

Great two-movie set; the similarity of the two to each other means one may want to watch each one with an alternate second title instead of watching both 'Usher' and 'Pendulum' in the same night; myself I'd recommend getting The Masque of the Red Death / The Premature Burial and/or Hammer Horror Series (Brides of Dracula / Curse of the Werewolf / Phantom of the Opera (1962) / Paranoiac / Kiss of the Vampire / Nightmare / Night Creatures / Evil of Frankenstein) and mixing and matching. If you like any one of these 3 sets you're likely to enjoy the others as well.
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on November 11, 2008
First of all, these two movies should be viewed as "psychological" horror: don't expect "monsters" (other than human ones) or magic; after all, they are based on Edgar Allen Poe stories (though embellished). I prefer "Pit and the Pendulum" over "House of Usher", but each has its own take on the human mind.

Vincent Price is simply superb. Whatever else one says about these movies, his acting can hardly be faulted.

The DVD is that cost-effective but unsettling "one movie per side" design (watch where you put your fingers!), but the display quality is good. I would hesitate to buy "House" by itself, but adding it to "Pit" and pricing the pair low (even compared to single-movie DVDs) is a winning combination. Just don't expect to be scared witless.
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on July 31, 2016
The first two Price-Corman-Matheson-Poe movies got it all off to a fine start. They are drenched in atmosphere a la Poe and like most horror movies that is the key. USHER is better, for PIT is basically that redone, but both measure up.
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on February 16, 2007
The first two American International-Roger Corman Poe features on one dvd -- great idea, and fine execution. Corman's commentary is very nice to have as well. Pit and Pendulum I first saw at a drive in when I was quite young, and the movie scared the hell out of me. These films have high, for AIP, production values, and look great here. My only question is the odd "theatrical prologue" for Pit and Pendulum, which is not really explained. I do not recall seeing it on the film's first release. Still, this is a dvd I would highly recommend for Corman and AIP and gothic horror fans.

February 2008 update: The P&P "theatrical prologue" turns out to be something shot for the ABC-TV premiere showing, and has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Luana Anders appears in the prologue, an interesting bit. I do wish this information were provided on the DVD!

Also, the reviewers who put this film down have really got to think about the time it was made. It is really a wild and valid interpretation, and one to savor.
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on February 15, 2016
Sound quality is poor
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on November 11, 2007
Just about everyone knows that Vincent Price is the king of 1960s/1970s horror films, especially the on screen adaption of Edgar Allen Poe's works. The House of Usher and Pit and the Pendulum are just two films directed by Roger Corman based on Poe stories.

Though Corman's films generally bear very little resemblance to the actual stories, they're still tons of fun to watch. The costuming and set design are rich examples of 1960s/1970s camp, featuring lots of dark gothic torches, light fixtures and artwork. The makeup worn by the ladies looks exactly like what you'll find in goth clubs today.

Price is wonderful in Usher and The Pit, both menacing and tragic as the role requires. Others in the films are equally enjoyable to watch, though they're not exactly Oscar caliber performances.

If you're looking for fun scary movies that can be watched by the whole family, these films are for you. There is little in the way of actual gore, yet the nightmarish storylines and Price's acting send chills right up the spine.

The pairing of "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" is great value for money for Vincent Price and Roger Corman fans alike. But Poe fans may be frustrated by the screenplays which don't have much in common with his works.
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on December 13, 2016
Just as creepy as I remember it as a child!
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on April 16, 2016
very good movies, Vincent Price and Edgar Allen Poe great combination
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on January 8, 2009
I was searching for a film version of "The Fall of the House of Usher" for my classroom when I found this. My students (11th graders)absolutely loved it! I was so excited. Vincent Price is a master at that over-the-top psycho creepy guy. "Usher" is a great film rendition; however, I was very disappointed with "The Pit and the Pendulum." I love Poe's work, but this film version stuck very little to the story. It is a good movie in and of itself, but if one is looking for a film to show with the story, this isn't it. All together though, this is a great deal, and it's like getting two movies for the price of one!
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on May 14, 2007
This series of 2 film DVD's from MGM in their "Midnight Movies Double Feature" collection is a great deal. Keep in mind the films is the series may not be MGM pictures, they are just the DVD distributor. The movies are decently priced, and they usually do a good job of matching up 2 movies in a theme. This set is no exception, with two American International Pictures films based on stories by Edgar Alan Poe, both featuring the great Vincent Price and both directed by Roger Corman with screenplays by Richard Matheson, and both feature music by Les Baxter.
First up we have the "Fall of House of Usher", from 1960, in color. It is presented in 16x9 Widescreen, and it runs a brisk 1 hour 20 minutes. Screenwriter Richard Matheson gives the Poe story a good treatment with plenty of plot twists, scaring the pants off of us as a family lusting for power is driven to savagery. The Film Daily in its review at the time described the stories "brooding evil and sinister suspense". The film was a big hit with the movie going public at the time, hitting the top 5 of box office sales for the year, and encouraged the studio to produce more Poe stories.

Next film is "The Pit and the Pendulum", from 1961, in color, presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen letterbox format. This movie is also 1 hour 20 minutes in length and is a fast paced film. The Hollywood Reporter described this film on release as "eerie and excellent", and they hit the mark. Corman improved on the formula for Usher, and the Pit was a smashing success. The story builds suspense as British man (John Kerr) visits a castle in Spain, owned by his wife's brother (Vincent Price), in order to investigate her death. She is played by Barbara Steele. The inquisition has recently ended, but Price fears he has inherited has sadistic and murderous traits of his father, who was an inquisitor. Price, who also plays his father, was given a more complex role with some meat on it and seems to be enjoying himself. A real spine-tingler, the scenes with the pendulum were incredible. The castle and dungeon scenes are very atmospheric partly due to the talented art design for the set by Daniel Haller.

EXTRAS & DVD ISSUES:: There is an audio commentary by Director Corman for "Usher", and the Theatrical Trailer. The "Pit" has the original trailer, audio commentary by director Corman who regales us with explanations about his camera trickery and techniques. We are also gifted with a rare prologue filmed for the Pit movie's TV release in 1968. No insert or booklet included. The image and sound are very clean and appear to be remastered, the colors are bright for the period. The only complaint is, on the DVD I purchased the second movie "the Pit and the Pendulum" is on the reverse side, side B. I have other movies like this and it seems to work OK, but on this one it just would not play. I tried it on other players and same story. I did buy another copy later that worked fine. Make sure you at least "test" the DVD when it arrives. All in all, I highly recommend this DVD, it is a keeper.
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