The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Posted: March 23, 2014 in Movie Review
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Pit and the Pendulum

Directed By: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Anthony Carbone

Synopsis: Francis Bernard travels to his brother-in-law’s Spanish castle to investigate the cause of his sister’s death.

Thoughts: Following the success of The Fall of the House of Usher, the first American International Pictures Poe picture, the studio quickly moved to make another film. The story of The Pit and the Pendulum was chosen, and within a year, production was underway.  Although House of Usher was a success, the budget was still rather modest.  The set had to be piecemealed from around the back lots and even other studios.  The final product is pretty impressive none the less.

AIP knew that the Poe follow-up had to feature Vincent Price, even though his success made him more expensive.  As he always does, Price delivered in spades.  His unhinged performance as Nicholas Medina, as well as his father Sebastian in flashbacks, can be a bit over-the-top at times, but if you love Price, this is fun to watch.  Fresh off her success in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Barbara Steele played the ill-fated wife of Price’s character, and the subject of the investigation.  It’s really a shame she didn’t get more screen time, as it would have been fantastic getting to see her presence pair up with Price’s.  Corman felt that her accent was too thick, so the lines she did have ended up being dubbed over for the final version.

Roger Corman was also asked to come back for the follow-up.  Corman has been quoted as saying that filming was enjoyable and that a lot of preplanning led to an uneventful shoot.  Although Corman is rightfully known as a pioneer in low budget movies, he did not believe in filming by the “seat of his pants.”  He was notorious for carefully planning out the entire shoot.  He experimented a lot here with camera movements, especially throughout the climax of the movie.  The flashback scenes were especially masterful, using a blue tint and crazy camera angles.

I’ve only watched three of the Poe adaptations done by Corman, but this remains my favorite.  The combination of the story, the set, Price’s character and Corman’s direction puts it over the top.


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