Review: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

A simple story of scares from the early 1960s featuring Vincent Price and based off the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.

When a brother hears news of his sister’s passing, he travels to the castle where she had lived. Once there he finds Nicolas Medina (Vincent Price) and servants, Nicolas was his sister’s lover and since she died has become a deeply disturbed man, claiming the castle itself is malicious due to its history; his father once being a torturer for the Spanish Inquisition. While investigating his sister’s death, the brother and her doctor discover the old castle’s torture chambers…

I have not read Poe’s short story, but I am aware that the film’s opening two acts are entirely constructed for the adaptation; the final act is Poe’s original concept. As such, the film acts as a deliberate build up to the inevitable climax: The Pit and the Pendulum.

It plays out not unlike a haunted house story, mixed with a who-done-it investigation as our hero wants more concrete answers than the mystery he is given. This works fine, although one does wait anxiously for the signature event to take place.
Vincent Price is great as a deeply troubled individual, I should track down more of his films. The story even includes a bonafide twist! A twist I did not expect.

So while the film is aging (that long-awaited pendulum is NOT metal…) and the sets are a little wobbly, it proves to be a fun little story full of spooky atmosphere, grim, blooded murder and haunted expressions. I’m impressed it still has a 15-certificate!

Additional Marshmallows: Did you know it took fifteen days to shoot the entire film? You wouldn’t get that nowadays!

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