The Pit and the Pendulum Movie Review

As part of his Edgar Allan Poe series in the 1960s (including The Raven, House of Usher, and The Masque of the Red Death), Roger Corman created The Pit and the Pendulum, based on one of Poe's best-known works.

Well, in title, anyway. The story, about a man trapped in the torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition isn't so well-known itself. And Corman and writer Richard Matheson (The Omega Man) take some extensive liberties with the story, turning into a tale about the son (Vincent Price) of a Spanish Inquisitor who inherits his father's house of horrors (torture chamber included). His adulturous wife (Barbara Steele) has faked her own death and is trying to drive her husband crazy... and when she succeeds, she gets more than she bargained for.

Ultimately, the film is quite a disappointment -- the pit and the pendulum don't appear until 10 minutes before the end of the picture, and the pit is only about 15 feet deep, not bottomless as in Poe's short story. Even Vincent Price has little to do, with few lines and bearing little of the creepiness he showed in films like House of Wax. Corman's atmosphere is appropriately moody, yet the proceedings drag down under its talkiness. In the end, it feels like one of his usual rush jobs, which of course, it was.

On a spare commentary track on the new DVD release, Corman peppers in a few details, most of which you won't really find interesting unless you're an ultra-low-budget filmmaker just like he was. Er, like he is.

Comments

The Pit and the Pendulum Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 1961

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