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John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #23 Of 31!! Vincent Price In PIT AND THE PENDULUM!!


John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews.  Today, Vincent Price slowly goes crazy in a film based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story.

Pit and the Pendulum plays more like a puzzle than a horror movie with Roger Corman unveiling a new clue to his macabre mystery in each scene.   Vincent Price stars as a man driven mad by the events inside of his gothic castle.  His wife died of fright and now she or perhaps another family member haunts the estate.  This movie slowly unravels into a string of lies, deceit and ultimately murder.  The viewer never really knows who to trust.  By the end of the movie, Corman has slow burned his way into a wicked climax, complete with a torture dungeon and the film’s namesake.  For those wondering how it measures up to the original short story, Corman used Poe’s classic as the basis of the climax in the third act and then extrapolated the rest of the plot from there.  Also, it helps that the legendary science fiction and horror writer Richard Matheson penned the screenplay.


While Corman produced the picture for relatively little money, his genius can be found in the production values.  The sets are modest, but he relies on just enough camera movement, a judicious number of matte paintings and excellent performances from his actors, to create an spooky period piece of horror.  

And speaking of performances, Vincent Price is in top form here. Is there anyone better at playing an eccentric upper class gentleman than Mr. Price?  He dives into full crazy mode by the end of the picture, with the kind of shifty eyes, rubber eyebrows and Shakespearean melodramatic flair that made him a legend.  He plays his part brilliantly.  This makes the second in the Poe series for Corman.  The first being House of Usher.  Like that film, he shot Pit in 15 days for a modest budget.  It exceeded expectations at the box office and in the end, Corman had 8 Poe titles to his credit.


For those with a short attention span, Pit and Pendulum may move slowly for you.  I would ask you to stick with it because the payoff at the end is excellent and well worth any of the film’s very minor problems.  It’s a solid horror mystery that features Roger Corman and Vincent Price at their best.

Pit and the Pendulum is no longer streaming on Netflix, but you can rent it on Amazon.  It’s also available on DVD with The Raven and Tales of Terror here.

Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as a group of college kids take on two redneck bumpkins in a battle to the death.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:

The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#4 Maniac
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#13 Audition
#14 The Catman of Paris
#15 Kuroneko
#16 Chillerama
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
#21 Equinox
#22 Night of the Living Dead

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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:13 a.m. CST


    by Smoky Bourbon

    First. The remake will star Brad Pitt and his fiance who swings both ways. Thank you. I'll be here all week, folks.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:14 a.m. CST


    by CuervoJones

    Choke on that, Saw.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Barbara Steele gave me nightmares as a child

    by Gorgomel

    what a woman

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 9:42 a.m. CST

    Great movie

    by D.Vader

    It threw me with the twist!

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:16 a.m. CST

    These reviews are great...

    by 88mph

    Thanks for pumping out one of these a day, John. I've really enjoyed your take on these films. I'm definitely going to be seeking out some of the selections from this column.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:27 a.m. CST


    by John Ary

    I appreciate the kind words. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did... the good ones at least.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 12:29 p.m. CST

    The Tomb of Ligeia is my favourite. we need those on Blu-ray

    by Gorgomel

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 2:14 p.m. CST


    by John Ary

    I have a certain amount of shame and sadness associated with this project.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 2:49 p.m. CST


    by Terry Powell

    ...yeah, but for me, worse was Quint talking about never seeing Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. C'mon, with that title how could you not see it? He's younger than I am, had it easier where movies were concerned(not that I'm griping, I started going to movies in the mid sixties and watched so many glorious films on the big screen). All he had to do was go rent a vhs tape or later buy the tape or dvd. When I was a kid I had to wait for a certain film to show up on tv, one of the 3 channels we had pre-cable. Luckily we did have a late saturday night horror show that would feature the old universal films, but it was years later, in the vhs days when I was able to catch many I hadn't seen, including the only film from the original Frankensein series that I'd missed, House of Dracula.

  • Luckily I'm sure today's SAW movies are doing the job nicely.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 5:32 p.m. CST

    Love Corman's Poe films

    by broderick crawford

    Got around to watching Premature Burial, Masque of the Red Death, and Haunted Palace this October. Masque reminded me of Bergman's The Seventh Seal. A little more ambitious than Corman's typical work. But even though Price wasn't in Premature Burial, I thought it was great. Pit and the Pendulum is probably my favorite of the Poe films -- the final reel is excellent, like the review said.

  • I had this dream as a kid where I was watching a Vincent Price movie at some weird little theatre and Vincent Price was descended a curved staircase and his face was melting. I don't remember having seen a Vincent Price movie as a kid back then but I SWEAR it's from one of his movies now. Like I dreamed it before I saw it. I know that sounds weird but does anyone know of a VP scene like that?

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST

    Melting face?

    by Gislef_crow

    I don't recall a staircase, but in.. Tales of Terror? there's the Case of M. Valdemar, which has Price's face melting.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Is that Barbara Steele?

    by albert comin

    She was a hottie back in the day.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:53 p.m. CST

    What about House Of Wax?

    by tangcameo

    I've never seen the beginning of it and the later parts that I have seen kind of fit. I'm kind of wondering if I saw it late one night when I was a wee lad and didn't remember it until the dream.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 1:27 a.m. CST

    tangcameo > check out THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES

    by Gorgomel

    It might be the movie you're looking for. It's not Vincent Price but one of his unfortunate victims who dies walking down the stairs with troubles with his face.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 1:43 a.m. CST

    The corruption of innocent minds...

    by Bradly Durant

    I remember first seeing Dawn of the Dead when I was 9, it scarred me and haunted me for many years after, but now looking back I’m so glad it did. It’s also one of my all time favs today. Up until that point all my scary movies were of the Universal and Hammer variety. About a year or so before that I saw a double bill of Son of Dracula and The Horror of Dracula. Son I found a bit plodding until Louise Allbritton is killed by the bullets passing through Lon Chaney Jr, that freaked me out. Worse was to come, Horror of Dracula made me feel sick, really sick whilst watching it. And that bit at the beginning with Jonathan Harker - when Dracula appears at the top of the stairs, ready to kill the vampire hunter – nightmares for months!!! By the time I was 10 I’d seen Fulci’s Zombie, The Wild Bunch and The Exorcist. Now that was an education.