The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on March 11th, 2020 | Movie Review | Vincent Price, Classic Horror, Madness, Torture

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It's about the brother of a women married to the son of guy who killed his wife who now accuses the guys son of killing his own wife.

The Pit and the Pendulum was directed by Roger Corman (who also directed Frankenstein Unbound and The Tomb Of Ligeia) and stars Vincent Price (from Dead Heat and From A Whisper To A Scream), Barbara Steele (from Minutes Past Midnight and The Butterfly Room) and Luana Anders (from The Killing Kind and Dementia 13).

Betrayal cuts both ways!

I've never been one of those "book is better than the movie" guys, hell I've never been one of those book reading guys. But I actually have read Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum, the fact it was a (very) short story made it easy. But here's the thing, the story had an extremely simple premise. Basically a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition keeps fainting and waking up to face a series of torturous events (more like stressful events since he was never actually tortured) before being saved by the French. How do you make a feature length film from that?

Well, back in the 60's Vincent Price was all the rage and could sell tickets to anything. So Roger Corman cast him as the lead in yet another dramatic murder mystery. Pretty much every Hollywood horror movie in the 50's and 60's was a dramatic murder mystery. And Price was the king of the genre. This time around, Price played the adult son of an infamous torturer of the Spanish Inquisition. He lives in a giant castle that is very posh, except for the epic torture room that his dad used to invite torturees to. His dad also happened to kill his mom and her lover in this room, which he witnessed. Fast-forward a few decades and he's now a seemingly high functioning guy, but we all know he's psychologically scarred. His beloved wife dies, her angry brother shows up and a dramatic murder mystery ensues.

This movie kept the pendulum and the pit, but that's about it. No prisoner, no torture, no French saviors. Probably the only other shared detail was the fainting. Price's character fainted a lot, it was kinda weird. But he didn't wake up to any series of tortuous events, rather he just woke up to coddling staff members.

All comparisons aside, I actually really liked this movie. I actually really like all Vincent Price movies. I honestly only watched this movie because Vincent Price was in it and I liked it mainly for his role. I'm no different from the mobs of moviegoers back in the 60's.

Worth Watching? 

I'd probably have to say no. I personally liked it, but I also like most movies from this era just because of the style and dramatic flair. It's almost like watching theater, everyone throws themselves at the screen, it's comedy. And the horror aspects from this era were weak. They literally use Halloween props and intentionally cast shadows everywhere. I get a kick out of this stuff, but not everyone does. And I'm not sure if this movie is good enough to stand on its own. There's definitely better movies from this era out there, The House on Haunted Hill would be one, The Bat would be another. And then there's The Fly, that's hard to beat.

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