Pit of Darkness Film Details
Overview: When Richard Logan, the partner in a safe making firm, is found unconscious, on an old deserted bomb site, he finds that he has no recollection of the last three weeks. Then he discovers …
Review: The title sounds like a Hammer cast-off, but the film is in actual fact a low-budget thriller about a safe-designer who wakes up dazed in Wapping, found by a young urchin, having been roughed up by some hoods. He goes home to his worried wife and finds he’s lost three weeks of memory. The evidence suggests he’s been having an affair with a woman named Mavis (only in England!), and killed the private investigator his wife sent to find him, although he claims not to know either. Soon he is being followed by some mysterious men in a grey Mercedes, and lured to a country house with a bomb in it. His efforts to retrieve his memory, and the possibly criminal events he has taken part in, are complicated by the possibility that he’s going mad. The story of a man who wakes up in a strange place unable to account for a period of time is familiar enough – from Hitchcock’s ‘Spellbound’ to the recent ‘Memento’; it has even been treated comically in Launder and Gilliat’s ‘A Constant Husband’. It was also a feature of some of the more daring British TV programmes of the 60s, including ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Prisoner’. In some ways, ‘Pit of Darkness’ feels like an early TV programme, with its short length, its low-budget, one-take genre aesthetic, and the groovy John Barry/Laurie Anderson music that punctuates occasionally. Lance Comfort was a prolific producer of these kinds of film throughout his career, and is today, despite a recent monograph, a neglected, even despised figure. His work is accused of a lack of imagination, poor execution, shoddy construction. His films are shown quite frequently late at night on British TV, but invariably any TV guide will give them the lowest rating, dismiss them as beneath contempt or ‘sleazy’, an example of an underside of British film production that would give birth to soft porn in the 1970s and video nasties in the 80s. I am not for one minute suggesting that ‘Pit’ is any masterpiece, but I will claim that it is clearly superior to films like ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and ‘A Kind of Loving’, or anything from the Free Cinema/New Wave/social-realism being touted in the Britain of the period. Its script (also by Comfort) is intelligent and often inspired. the amnesia plot gives an added dimension to any mystery, for two reasons: the hero must become a detective and may be the criminal; the clues and spaces he investigates are also a topography of his own mind, an indication of its fragility, raising the possibility that it might never be known. Logan’s interruption of three weeks is profoundly disruptive, not only to his own identity, but also his marriage, and the retrieval of one is intimately linked to the other – he can only begin solving his personal mystery after he’s convinced his wife. But does he solve his own mystery? The filming rarely matches the quality of the screenplay, but there are some excellent sequences, the best being Logan’s return home from nearly being bombed (an eerie crime-in-the-country set-piece that would be exploited in ‘The Avengers’ and Hammer horror); the dreamlike tone carries over, the profound alienation of a man exploring his own home; he hears his wife talking, and the scene becomes fragmented, broken voices and sounds assailing him, a possible flashback, an insane vision, the realisation that his wife is involved, we don’t know, but the dream/mystery filming (repetition of events, uncanny silences and emptiness) is closer to Resnais that British quota quickies. Throughout the inchoate repetition of a pop record he’s never heard haunts him, and signals mental breakdown of some sort. When he begins to piece everything together, the process is preceded by one of these cues: it is significant that his solution is plausible only in terms of his own flawed conclusions, and could be coloured by his own fears and prejudices (his resentment at Ted for taking away a secretary it’s implied he’s been seeing etc.). The effect is bravely ambivalent. Further, the date on which Logan wakes is September 13. He’s been missing three weeks, and twice he’s told something he’s aware of (the record, his wife’s play) only came into existence ten days ago. That’s September 3, the date World War Two started. He’s found in a Blitzed bomb site, and his friend and partner compares his amnesia to one he received as an airman during the war. Is Comfort’s modest psychological thriller really a film about Britain and its memory of the war? The fact that he’s given us a film so rich in ambiguity suggests critics shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss him.
Duration: 76 min
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Also known as: Kassavalvskuppen,Pit of Darkness,Mesanyhta, i ora tou dolofonou,A Penumbra do Mal,Der Mann, der einen Mord vergaß,暗黒の落し穴,Il mistero dell’idolo nero,A Trama Maldita