Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum) (1961) - Rotten Tomatoes

Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum)1961

Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum) (1961)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum) Photos

Movie Info

American-International's standing "haunted castle" set is exhibited to peak advantage in Roger Corman's Pit & the Pendulum. Save for the climax, Richard Matheson's script bears but little resemblance to the Edgar Allen Poe original, though there are pronounced echoes throughout of Poe's The Premature Burial. Vincent Price stars as Nicholas Medina, the son of a notorious Spanish Inquisition torturer. Nicholas' wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) has died under mysterious circumstances, prompting Elizabeth's brother Francis (John Kerr) to arrive at the Medina castle to investigate. The tormented Medina believes that Elizabeth was buried alive, and is convinced that he can hear his wife's voice calling out to him. In truth, Elizabeth has faked her death, part of a plan concocted with her lover Dr. Leon (Anthony Carbone) to drive Medina mad. She succeeds in this goal (albeit to her own grief, as the film's very last shot reveals), pushing Medina over the brink. Convinced that he's his own father, Medina dons Inquisition robes, straps Francis to a table, and arranges for a huge steel-bladed pendulum to slowly, slooooowwly descend on his helpless victim. You'd never know that Pit & The Pendulum was shot on the budget and schedule of a B western; the film is consistently good to look at, with eerily evocative color camerawork (Floyd Crosby) and sumptuous art direction. Stock footage of the climactic torture sequence would later find its way into the 1966 spy spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which also starred Vincent Price.

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Vincent Price
as Nicholas Medina
John Kerr (II)
as Francis Barnard
Luana Anders
as Catherine Medina
Barbara Steele
as Elisabeth Barnard Medina
Anthony Carbone
as Dr. Charles Leon
Antony Carbone
as Dr. Charles Leon
Patrick Westwood
as Maximillian the Butler
Larry Turner
as Nicholas as a Child
Mary Menzies
as Isabella
Charles Victor
as Bartolome
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Critic Reviews for Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum)

All Critics (18)

Proves to be the equal of 1960's The Fall of the House of Usher.

October 31, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Who wants understatement in a film with dungeons and giant blades?

October 22, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The film ends up being very nearly as good [as House of Usher], and better in some respects.

October 9, 2011 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

The title calls out for lustrous Freudian hysteria, and Corman delivers

March 15, 2010 | Full Review…

Vincent Price lording over a giant torture pendulum! Awesome.

March 10, 2007 | Rating: 3/5

It reminds us that flat, colorless character actors look really flat and colorless when sharing a scene with Price.

April 5, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum)


A very inspired adaptation that strays completely from Poe's story - in fact, it is hard to see why it is said to be an adaptation in the first place -, and Corman builds a tense atmosphere with a firm direction, a fine art direction and Price's magnetic performance.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Roger Corman directs this adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story with effective thrills and shocks to make this a stunning, well constructed horror film that is a surprising classic that deserves to be seen by fans of the genre. The film relies on atmosphere and the performance of Vincent Price to create its terror, and what we get here is a well crafted low budget film that keeps you involved from start to finish. The film has a gothic tone to it, which is standard for films of the era, and it only adds so much to the picture. The cast do a fine job here, and each brings something to the screen to really make this a standout feature among Corman fans. Horror should be about tone, and atmosphere, and Roger Corman clearly understands that, and the result is a masterful adaptation of a classic literary work. In terms of horror, The Pit and the Pendulum is a fine example of how it's done correctly. I really enjoyed the film and I think that it's one of those movies that needs to be rediscovered by viewers that enjoy great horror. The film has an engaging performance by horror icon Vincent Price, which makes this one stand out among other horror classics. For those who've enjoyed Edgar Allan Poe's writings, this is a worthy film to watch. The cast are great, and the pacing itself works well to set up to a riveting and trilling climax. Roger Corman has made a fine horror film that delivers effective chills throughout and it is a fine early work, from a director who would have significant impact on cinema. If you come across this film, give it a shot, you're sure to enjoy it if you love old school horror films, and with Vincent Price starring in it, you know it's going to be worth your time.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer


Vincent Price is as magnetic as always (enough to counter John Kerr's terribly nonchalant performance) and the film revels in tense atmosphere. The pacing is a bit un-even at times but the last twenty minutes are so intense that it makes the waiting worthwhile. Another solid Corman Poe adaptation.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer

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