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Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Not Rated | | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 12 August 1961 (USA)
In the sixteenth century, Francis Barnard travels to Spain to clarify the strange circumstances of his sister's death after she had married the son of a cruel Spanish Inquisitor.

Director:

Roger Corman

Writers:

Richard Matheson (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (story "The Pit and the Pendulum")
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Vincent Price ... Nicholas Medina / Sebastian Medina
John Kerr ... Francis Barnard
Barbara Steele ... Elizabeth Barnard Medina
Luana Anders ... Catherine Medina
Antony Carbone Antony Carbone ... Doctor Charles Leon
Patrick Westwood ... Maximillian
Lynette Bernay Lynette Bernay ... Maria (as Lynne Bernay)
Larry Turner Larry Turner ... Nicholas as a Child
Mary Menzies Mary Menzies ... Isabella
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Bartolome
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Storyline

Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the brutest torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died of a blood disease, but Francis finds this hard to believe. After some investigating he finds out that it was extreme fear that was fatal to his sister and that she may have been buried alive! Strange things then start to happen in the Medina castle. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was enslaved by evil in a terror haunted castle. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM Studios [United States]

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 August 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Edgar Allan Poe's Pit and the Pendulum See more »

Filming Locations:

Palos Verdes, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$200,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Alta Vista Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Ryder Sound Services)

Color:

Color (Pathécolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actor John Kerr was worried about being strapped down to the table with the pendulum above him for the movie's climax. In order to demonstrate that it was perfectly safe, director Roger Corman stood in for Kerr while the scene was being set up. See more »

Goofs

None of the torture instruments that appear in the movie where used by the Inquisition and many of them even didn't existed during the time the story is set. One of the most clear examples is the Iron Maiden that was invented during the 18th century. See more »

Quotes

Doctor Leon: [after Nicholas has fallen down the stairs and appears to have died] I told you to wait.
Elizabeth: I couldn't.
[she and Dr. Leon kiss]
Elizabeth: What about my brother?
Doctor Leon: He's supposed to leave in the morning , but now... why couldn't you wait one more day?
Elizabeth: I've waited too long already.
Elizabeth: [goes down to where Nicholas is laying] And now, my dear Nicholas, I have you exactly as I want you - helpless.
Doctor Leon: Elizabeth, there is no time for this.
Elizabeth: I've waited an eternity for this moment. There has to be time. Is it not ironical, my ...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

2 shots of a corpse's face in a coffin were cut by the BBFC from the original UK cinema version. All later versions were uncut. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: The Wasp Woman (2018) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Perhaps the finest Corman & Price collaboration.
24 December 2005 | by Snake-666See all my reviews

Following the sudden death of his sister, Francis Barnard (John Kerr) travels to Spain to question her husband, Don Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price), son of a notoriously barbaric Inquisitor. Medina openly mourns the death of his wife but Barnard is unconvinced by his story and is determined to discover the truth.

Proceeding from 'The Fall of the House of Usher' (1960), director Roger Corman's second film in his now-famous cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations was this delightfully lurid and lavish offering that can at once be both repugnant and resplendent. 'Pit and the Pendulum' is a uniquely and profoundly visual experience. Dazzling colour and abhorrent darkness coalesce to invoke the most unpleasant aura of trepidation. The luxuriant cinematography of Floyd D. Crosby coupled with the artistic eye of Corman merge eminently, ensuring that mood and atmosphere remain constant and that the viewer feels the agony of the events depicted on-screen. Furthermore, Richard Matheson's screenplay is both intelligent and eloquent and Corman makes full use of what he is gifted here. The pacing of the film is superb, constantly moving onwards, never lingering too long and remaining thoroughly enthralling throughout. Truly this film is perfect in presentation and direction.

Sadly, there are imperfections in the performances of the cast, most notably John Kerr whose continually wooden, dull and tepid acting is too explicit for a leading role. Similarly, while the linguistical talents of Vincent Price lend themselves to an almost Shakespearean delivery of his lines, he occasionally allows himself to sink into ham-acting which detracts somewhat from the more serious nature of the film. However, minus these minor distractions, the performances of the cast are more than adequate to support what is in essence a strongly visceral experience. Luanne Anders and Anthony Carbone offer masterful performances in their supporting roles and cult-favourite, Barbara Steele, makes short appearances as Medina's deceased wife.

If the Corman/Price collaborations are to horror what the Scorsese/De Niro collaborations be to drama then this may well be Corman's 'Goodfellas'. A sublime entry into the genre that offers numerous thrills and chills, inherent beauty and one of the strongest screenplays to grace Sixties horror cinema. What few flaws that there are cannot truly undermine the hard work that went into making this magnificent horror film.


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