The Pit and the Pendulum 1961 film Review: Done by Rancel
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961 is a horror film directed and produced by Roger Corman, starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, and Luana Anders. It is based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name. The movie is a short film at 85 minutes. This was the second of the Poe related films to be released by American International Pictures. The first and also directed and produced by Roger Corman was “The House of Usher”. Vincent Price also starred in that one. The Pit and the Pendulum movie was a critical and box office success for Roger Corman. Roger Corman would go on to do six more Poe related films for American International Pictures. Vincent Price would star in five of those.
The story begins in the 16th century with an Englishman named Francis Barnard (John Kerr) on his trip to Spain. He visits the castle of his brother in law Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) to investigate the death of his sister, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele). She, who is the wife of Nicholas Media, died under mysterious circumstances. He enters the castle and runs into Nicholas Medina and his younger sister, Catherine (Luana Anders). Nicholas Medina offers an unsatisfying explanation for the death of his sister Elizabeth. He claims it was a rare blood disorder that did her in. Francis who is disappointed in the explanation decides to stay and will not leave till he gets the full details of Elizabeth’s death. During a discussion with the family doctor Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone), Francis questions him about Elizabeth and the doctor tells him that she died of being scared to death which caused her heart to fail.
Nicholas Medina takes Francis to the castle torture chamber. His father Sebastian Medina who was The Inquisition’s most infamous torturer created it. Nicholas explains to Francis that Elizabeth was obsessed with the torture chamber and the atmosphere of the castle itself. She soon went mad and locked herself in one of the chambers torture devices called the “Iron Maiden”, and died after whispering the name “Sebastian”. Francis scoffs and just considers this story by Nicholas to be a lie.
The film shifts to Catherine explaining to Francis that Nicholas did not tell a lie and that he is a good man. She also tells him he suffers from guilt caused by what his father used to do and the death of Elizabeth. She reveals to him that one day while as a child Nicholas was playing in the castle’s torture chamber. Both his father who is also played by Vincent Price and his mother, Isabella, Sebastian’s brother, Bartolome enter the chamber. Young Nicholas watched in horror as his father beat Bartolome to death while screaming “adulterer”! He then tortures Isabella with one of the devices to death. Dr. Leon soon tells Francis and Catherine that Isabella was not tortured to death and merely died from being entombed alive behind a brick wall. Nicholas is revealed to be a little out of his mind in this scene since he believes that the vengeful spirit of his wife haunts him and the castle. Soon evidence of Nicholas being a liar and creating hoaxes start revealing themselves in the guise of Elizabeth’s room being robbed of valuables, her portrait slashed, and her harpsichord plays in the middle of the night.
They also find Elizabeth’s ring in the keyboard of the harpsichord. After this Francis accuses Nicholas of planting all this evidence of Elizabeth haunting the castle. While being accused as a liar, Nicholas rather cleverly says he did all this while he was unaware. Both Nicholas and the Doctor agree to put all this nonsense to rest, they must visit Elizabeth’s coffin behind one of the castle walls and open it. After breaking down the wall, they open the coffin and all look in horror at the putrefied corpse of Elizabeth frozen in a position detailing that she was buried alive.
On that stormy night the insane Nicholas follows the ghostly voice of his wife down to her coffin. The blood-covered body of Elizabeth rises from her coffin and chases Nicholas as he runs in fear. He soon falls down a flight of stairs while fleeing. It is then revealed that Dr. Leon is the lover of Elizabeth. Elizabeth begins to taunt Nicholas thinking that he is dead. She reveals their scheme that drove him mad expecting that they would inherit his estate and fortune. Nicholas soon rises while laughing at them maniacally. He grabs the terrified Elizabeth by the throat and puts her in the “Iron Maiden” to torture her to death. He soon attacks Dr. Leon who is trying to escape and a struggle ensues which results in the frightened doctor falling to his death.
Francis enters the chamber after hearing screams. The completely insane Nicholas, who now thinks he is his father Sebastian. He binds down Francis on a stone slab; now believing he is his brother, Bartolome. The strapped down and gagged mouth wearing red scarf Francis looks on in fear as the swinging razor sharp blade lowers closer to his torso to slice him in half. Catherine along with the servant Maximillian arrives to put a stop to this. A struggle breaks out between Maximillian and Nicholas. Eventually gaining the upper hand Maximillian forces Nicholas to fall to his death. Francis is then removed from the torture device just in the nick of time after Maximillian and Catherine push back the lever that controls it. Unaware that Elizabeth is still alive in the Iron Maiden torture device they seal the torture chamber forever.
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961: The Review
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961 is an excellent classic horror movie. I would consider this to be the best of Edgar Allen Poe inspired movies. The twists and turns of the films plot add a nice suspenseful mystery element to it. The film evokes vivid imagery and the gothic set design is great. I love the mono-color effects used in the flashback scenes of the film. It gives it an eerie feel to it. The music is also well done and adds to the unsettling creepy atmosphere. Vincent Price’s performance is perfect as a double personality crazy old man. Barbara Steele as Elizabeth was also good in her creepy performance.This is some of Roger Corman’s best work in horror. There is also a Full Moon Pictures/ Full Moon Features version of this film, which came out in 1991. Full Moon Pictures/ Full Moon Features if you aren’t familiar with are responsible for great B-movie horror flicks from the 90’s such as The Puppet Master series, Subspecies, and Trancers. It is also excellent in its own right, but the 1961 version I reviewed is the best one. In the Full Moon Pictures version Lance Hendrickson of the Alien Movies fame plays Vincent Price’s role. He is called Torquemada in it. The plot is also quite different since it uses several Poe stories as content. It is also very gory. You can’t beat Vincent Price’s creepy performance in this 1961 version though. I have always liked Vincent Price’s works in horror Sci-Fi movies. He was a legendary actor.
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961 Trailer
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