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Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

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:

The Greatest Terror Tale Ever Told! 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

This was the second of Roger Corman's "Poe" films. He had intended to do "The Masque of the Red Death" but felt that it was too close to the content of Ingmar Bergman's recent The Seventh Seal (1957) (US title: "The Seventh Seal"). Several years later Corman would go to England to make The Masque of the Red Death (1964). See more »

Goofs

When Nicholas pretends to be dead, Elizabeth talks to him and moves his head towards her. In the next shot she moves his head again to same position. See more »

Quotes

Don Nicholas Medina: The atmosphere is heavy in here.
[opens the curtains in Elizabeth's room]
Francis: Why have you brought me here?
Don Nicholas Medina: It is her room, sir. I've had it kept exactly as she left it.
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 Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Magnificent Gothic horror masterpiece!
31 December 2004 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

From horror's premier team of Roger Corman, Vincent Price and, of course, Edgar Allen Poe comes this menacing, macabre and suspenseful tale of insanity, death and betrayal. This film is certainly one of, but maybe even 'the' finest Corman-Poe film. It's Poe at his most devilishly malicious as it deals with themes of torture, and the most frightening method of death known to man; being buried alive. As usual, Vincent Price takes the lead role as the tortured soul of the piece, this time playing Nicholas Medina; the son of the Spanish inquisition's most notorious torturer. All is not well for Nicholas, as his beloved bride, Elizabeth, has killed himself and the notion that she may have been buried alive has tortured the torturer's son to the brink of insanity. We enter the fray as Elizabeth's brother comes to the castle in search of answers to discover the fate of his sister...

Through a great Gothic atmosphere and gorgeous lavish sets, Roger Corman has created a macabre masterpiece from Poe's classic tale. Vincent Price is superb (again!) as the almost insane son of a madman. As usual, he captures the essence of his character and through his stark tone that was made for the horror genre; and he gets his portrayal spot on. Horror fans can thank god that Vincent Price decided to become an actor, as any other actor simply couldn't have pulled off this performance like Price did (as is the case with most of Price's resume). Price is joined by Barbara Steele (of Mario Bava's Black Sunday) and a small cast of unknowns. Steele, unfortunately, doesn't get a lot of screen time and it's a shame because seeing her and price on screen together more would have been a treat.

The theme of being buried alive is something that appears to have fascinated Edgar Allen Poe as it appears in a number of his stories and it fascinates me also. It's impossible to imagine the terror of being alone in an enclosed space with nobody or nothing to help you escape and that's what makes it so horrifying, and such a great springboard for a Gothic horror film. This film makes the best of that, with Price's brooding adding all the horror that the subject needs. Corman succeeds in making the subject dreadful as well, as he shows the tomb in which the unfortunate young lady was trapped in, and also through the castle's many corridors and steel doors; it gives the impression that there truly is no escape. The film's flagship sequence - the pendulum scene - is a true masterpiece of horror imagery. For the scene, Corman took out every other frame to give the impression that the pendulum was swinging faster than it actually was. The way the pendulum swings across and gets lower every time depicts another horrible way to die, and through his portrayal of the scene; Corman makes the best of it. The story itself is brilliant, soaked with irony and the bitterness of revenge; it truly is one of Poe's best.

I don't need to say it, but I will anyway; see this movie!


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