The Pit and the Pendulum


If Roger Corman’s Poe adaptation House of Usher is a delicate work of grotesque art, then The Pit and the Pendulum is its gleefully brash sibling, a delicious popcorn muncher of the highest order. Vincent Price has a field day alternating from gibbering terror to teeth-gnashing insanity (sometimes in the same scene), nicely guided along by a spectacular, twist-filled screenplay by the late, great Richard Matheson (The Incredible Shrinking Man) — plus, Europe’s favorite scream queen Barbara Steele makes a vivid impression in her relatively brief screen time. More than any other Corman film, Pit features amazing pacing, as it piles incident upon incident to create an incipient air of madness seemingly trapped within the very frames of the film. During the famous climax which finds one unfortunate victim suffering beneath the title device, Corman goes berserk with distorted lenses, psychedelic colors, and rapid editing, all accompanied by Les Baxter’s unnerving, experimental score. Simply put, no other Corman/Poe film is this much sheer fun, and the last ten minutes still pack a tremendous kick with an unforgettable, terrifying final image.
Dir. Roger Corman, 1961, DCP, 85 min.

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