The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Directed by: Roger Corman. Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Plot: This is one of those movies where basically just a bunch of weird stuff happens for eighty minutes - there’s a guy living in this castle (Vincent Prince) who’s father was some kind of sadist, making for an extremely traumatic childhood. Then his wife (Barbara Steele) dies inexplicably and her brother (John Kerr) shows up to investigate or something. They find out she was actually buried alive, just like Vincent Price’s mother. Or maybe it's all an elaborate plot to drive Vincent Price insane.
Review: The other problem is, of course, the mental crossover between this and House of Usher (another Corman-Poe-Price spectacular, probably shot at the same time as this and on the same sets). They’re pretty much the same movie, with a lot of the same weird shit happening, but I dunno, this one scared me more for some reason.
Probably the Barbara Steele factor. Even in my younger days I found her innately terrifying. She’s playing a pretty hardcore bitch in this movie (not quite as much of a bitch as in, say, Black Sunday, but still not a very nice lady). And ya know, power to her. As far as I'm concerned she can totally hold her own against Vincent Price or Christopher Lee. She kicks ass.
Anyway, the production values in this movie are unusually high as I remember, so the sets and costumes and stuff are all very nice to look at. The film also maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout and the feeling that something really awful is going to happen at some point (it does). There’s a fairly good torture scene at the end too where everybody gets what’s coming to them, so to speak.
It’s a pretty good movie in general, but it had to be included solely because it scared the fucking hell out of me when I was little. Okay, okay, so did lots of other stuff (there was this weird movie I watched on the family network once when I was five or so about this woman who’s actually a monster or something - I wish to hell I could remember what it was called coz it scared the shit out of me), but this one left a sort of feeling of terror in my soul. I’d be scared to watch it again. Yes, I admit, this is yet another movie I haven’t seen since I was, like, nine, but horror movies are just so much better when you’re nine. I wish I had seen some of the stuff I’ve seen now when I was nine. Imagine what an awful person I’d be… it would be awesome (you just know my future children are going to have serious problems).
Yep. Pretty scary movie, very spooky and gothic. Wonderful.
Favourite Part: The part which really scared me was the part when they were going to exhume Barbara Steele’s corpse because Vincent Price can’t shake the thought that perhaps she was buried alive. So they go and they open up the coffin and she’s in there, with her face frozen in this horrible mask of terror, claw marks all over the inside of the coffin… scared the living fuck out of me, I swear to God. After seeing that (and also reading too many other friggin Poe stories), I developed this overwhelming fear of being buried alive. I still have nightmares about it (granted, these are more likely caused by The Vanishing, but I probably wouldn’t have found that movie quite so disturbing if I hadn’t seen this one when I did).
Other versions: Probably.
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