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
#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!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
#22 Night of the Living Dead
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