The Razor Edge of Destiny
, 09 May 2011
Roger Corman takes us back into the tormented,claustrophobic world of Poe. Of course,the short story is only the basis of the film but certain Poe motifs like walling-up in tombs ('Premature Burial' and 'The Cask of Amontillado'), Nemesis ('The Tell-Tale Heart', 'The Black Cat' and 'The Masque of the Red Death') and the terror of your sin being found out, with fatal consequences. Ignoring the historical unlikelihood of an Englishman going to Spain in the 1540's, even though he is trying to find out about his sister's death, Richard Matheson's script pulls away the layers of deceit Nicholas Medina tries to put in the way of the truth required by Francis Bonnard in his quest to find out what really caused his sister Elizabeth's death. The characters seem always to be going down into the dungeons,the torture chambers of Sebastian Medina,father of Nicholas, and Corman exploits every shadow; in one early scene,the horned devil is shadowed on the wall and the final scene has hooded monks looking into the abyss. As one reviewer has noted,Vincent Price came into his own in these films of Poe although he is much better as 'Sebastian' who is much more able to deal with the problems his son faces as history repeats itself. '...You are in hell...Abaddon,Tofit,the Regions of the Damned,gehenna- thePit...and the Pendulum!..' which was exactly where Poe's probably laudanum-inspired trips took him. Barbara Steele,the mistress of screen horror, was excellent, matching Price's melodramatic style with verve. In its time, the poster commercials read : '£10,000 if you die of fright!' which now seems laughable but Corman really knew how to pile on the shocks on a budget and the film was part of my growing-up in the cinema and the beginning of my reading of 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination'.
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