- The Pit and the Pendulum (1961 film)
name = The Pit and the Pendulum
caption = Original 1961 theatrical release poster by
producer = Roger Corman
James H. Nicholson(Exec Prod)
Samuel Z. Arkoff(Exec Prod)
writer = Short story:
Edgar Allan Poe
Vincent Price Barbara Steele
American International Pictures
released = August 12, 1961
runtime = 85 min
language = English
amg_id = 1:38241
imdb_id = 0055304
"The Pit and the Pendulum" (also known as "Pit and the Pendulum"Williams, Lucy Chase. "The Complete Films of Vincent Price", Citadel Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8065-1600-3. As Williams notes, the actual onscreen title has no initial "The". Some references follow suit and refer to the film as "Pit and the Pendulum"] ) is a 1961
horror filmdirected by Roger Corman, starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, and Luana Anders. The screenplayby Richard Mathesonwas very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short storyof the same name. Set in 16th century Spain, the story is about a young Englishman who visits a forbidding castle to investigate his sister's mysterious death. After a series of horrific revelations, apparently ghostly appearances and violent deaths, the young man becomes strapped to the titular torture deviceby his lunatic brother-in-law during the film's climactic sequence.
"The Pit and the Pendulum" was the second title in the popular series of Poe-based movies released by
American International Pictures, the first having been Corman’s " House of Usher" released the previous year. Like "House", the film features widescreen cinematographyby Floyd Crosby, huge sets designed by art director Daniel Haller, and a film scorecomposed by Les Baxter. A critical and box office hit, "Pit"'s commercial success convinced AIP and Corman to continue adapting Poe stories for another six films, five of them starring Price. The series ended in 1965 with the release of " The Tomb of Ligeia". Film critic Tim Lucasand writer Ernesto Gastaldihave both noted the film’s strong influence on numerous subsequent Italian thrillers, from Mario Bava’s " The Whip and the Body" (1963) to Dario Argento’s " Deep Red" (1975).Lucas, Tim. " Video Watchdog" Magazine, issue #74 (August 2001), pg. 55. Review of "The Pit and the Pendulum" DVD ] Gastaldi, Ernesto. Interviewed by Tim Lucas in "Video Watchdog" Magazine, issue #39 (May-June 1997), pgs. 28 - 53, "What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood in the Scripts of Ernesto Gastaldi?"] Stephen Kinghas described one of "Pit"’s major shock sequences as being among the most important moments in the post-1960 horror film.
In Spain, during the 16th Century, Francis Barnard (John Kerr) visits the castle of his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (
Vincent Price) to investigate the cause of the mysterious death of his sister, Elizabeth ( Barbara Steele). Both Nicholas and his younger sister, Catherine ( Luana Anders), offer a vague explanation about Elizabeth having died from a rare blood disorder. However, when Nicholas responds evasively after Francis asks for specific details regarding the disease, Francis advises that he will not leave until he discovers the true reason his sister died.
During dinner with family physician Dr. Leon (
Antony Carbone), Francis again asks about his sister's death. Dr. Leon tells him that his sister had died of massive heart failure, literally "dying of fright". Francis demands to be shown where Elizabeth died. Nicholas takes him to the castle's torture chamber. Nicholas reveals that Elizabeth, under the influence of the castle's "heavy atmosphere", became obsessed with the chamber's torture devices. After becoming progressively unbalanced, one day she locked herself into an iron maiden, and died after whispering the name "Sebastian." Francis refuses to believe Nicholas's story.
Francis tells Catherine that Nicholas appears to feel "definite guilt" regarding Elizabeth’s death. In response, Catherine talks about Nicholas's traumatic childhood, revealing that their father was Sebastian Medina, a notorious member of the
Spanish Inquisition. When Nicholas was a small child, he was playing in the castle's torture chamber when his father (also played by Price) entered the room with his mother, Isabella, and Sebastian’s brother, Bartolome. Hiding in a corner, Nicholas watched in horror as his father repeatedly hit Bartolome with a red-hot poker, screaming “Adulterer!” at him. After murdering Bartolome, Sebastian began torturing his wife slowly to death in front of Nicholas’s eyes.
After Catherine is finished telling Francis about Nicholas, Catherine and Francis are informed by Dr. Leon that Isabella was in fact not tortured to death, rather she was entombed behind a brick wall while still alive. Dr. Leon explains, “The very thought of premature interment is enough to send your brother into convulsions of horror.” Nicholas believes that Elizabeth may have been interred prematurely. The doctor tells Nicholas that "if Elizabeth Medina walks these corridors, it is her
spiritand not her living self."
Nicholas now believes his late wife’s vengeful
ghostis haunting the castle. Elizabeth’s room is noisily ransacked and her portrait is found slashed to ribbons. Her beloved harpsichordplays in the middle of the night. One of Elizabeth's rings is found in the keyboard. Francis accuses Nicholas of planting the evidence of Elizabeth’s “haunting” as some sort of elaborate hoax. Nicholas insists that his wife’s tomb be opened. Inside the coffin, they discover Elizabeth’s putrefied corpse frozen in a position of writhing horror, hands clawed and mouth wide open, as if in a final scream. That night, Nicholas, now on the very edge of sanity, hears his wife calling him. He follows her ghostly voice down to the torture chamber. Suddenly, Elizabeth appears from out of the shadows, causing Nicholas to fall down a flight of stairs. She is alive, and she is met by her lover, Dr. Leon. Elizabeth, thinking Nicholas dead, taunts his apparent corpse about their scheme to drive him mad so the two lovers could inherit his fortune and estate. Nicholas opens his eyes and begins laughing while his wife and the doctor recoil in horror. Nicholas stands up and overpowers Dr. Leon, who attempts to escape but falls to his death. Nicholas then approaches Elizabeth, and promises he will torture her horribly. Francis, having heard Elizabeth's screams, enters the dungeon to see what has happened. Nicholas is now gibbering with insanity and has become convinced he is his own father, the evil Sebastian Medina. He confuses Francis for Sebastian's brother, Bartolome, and knocks him unconscious. He straps him to a stone slab located directly beneath a huge razor-sharp pendulum. The cackling Nicholas slowly lowers the swinging blade closer and closer to Francis’s torso. Catherine arrives just in time with Maximillian, one of the family servants. After a brief fight with Maximillian, Nicholas falls to his death, and Francis is removed from the torture device. As they leave the basement, Catherine vows to seal up the chamber forever. They slam and lock the door shut, unaware that Elizabeth is still alive, gagged and trapped in the iron maiden.
When Roger Corman's "House of Usher" was released in June 1960, its box office success took AIP’s James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff by surprise. Corman admitted, “We anticipated that the movie would do well, but not half as well as it did.” According to Richard Matheson, “When the first film was a hit, they still didn’t consider doing a Poe series. They just wanted another movie with a Poe title fixed to it.” "The Pit and the Pendulum" was announced in August 1960, and filming began the first week of January 1961. According to Lucy Chase Williams's book, "The Complete Films of Vincent Price", the shooting schedule was fifteen days, and the film’s budget was almost $1 million. Corman himself has said that the film's actual production cost was approximately $300,000.
Matheson's script freely devised an elaborate
narrativethat barely resembled Poe, with only the finale having any similarity at all to the original short story on which the film was based. Corman noted, "The method we adopted on "The Pit and the Pendulum" was to use the Poe short story as the climax for a third act to the motion picture, because a two-page short story is not about to give you a ninety-minute motion picture. We then constructed the first two acts in what we hoped was a manner faithful to Poe, as his climax would run only a short time on the screen."Di Franco, J. Philip (editor). "The Movie World of Roger Corman", Chelsea House Publishers, 1979. ISBN 0-87754-122-1]
Matheson's screenplay included a
flashbackto a time immediately preceding Elizabeth's illness, featuring Nicholas and Elizabeth horseback riding and eating a picnic lunch. Corman deleted the sequence prior to filming because he felt it violated one of his major theories regarding the Poe series: "I had a lot of theories I was working with when I did the Poe films...One of my theories was that these stories were created out of the unconscious mindof Poe and the unconscious mind never really sees reality, so until " The Tomb of Ligeia" we never showed the real world...In "Pit", John Kerr arrived in a carriage against an ocean background, which I felt was more representative of the unconscious. That horseback interlude was thrown out because I didn't want to have a scene with people out in broad daylight."
The screenplay was modified from its original draft form during the film's shooting. Price himself suggested numerous dialogue changes for his character. In the script, when Francis Barnard is first introduced to Nicholas, the young man asks about loud, strange noises he had heard a few moments earlier. Don Medina responds: "Uh...an apparatus, Mr. Barnard. ("turning") What brings you to us?" Price penciled in the suggestions "that must be kept in constant repair" and "that cannot be stopped". Later in the screenplay, when Nicholas recalls his father's chamber of torture, Price devised alternate explanations for Sebastian Medina's violence. During Nicholas's death scene, after falling to the bottom of the pit the character originally had dialogue at the point of dying, asking in a voice of horror, "Elizabeth. What have I done to you? ("beat") What have I done to you?" The camera was to then cut directly to Elizabeth's face trapped in the iron maiden. Corman decided to jettison the lines, believing that the film should remain purely visual at that point and dialogue would ruin the power of the scene.
Corman has noted that making the film was a pleasurable experience: "I enjoyed "The Pit and the Pendulum" because I actually got the chance to experiment a bit with the movement of the camera. There was a lot of moving camera work and interesting cutting in the climax of the film." Filming went smoothly, and Corman attributed the ease of the production's shoot to the short but comprehensive
pre-productionplanning he did with the major technicians. "We achieved what we did on a low budget because we carefully planned the whole production in advance of starting the cameras. Thus, when we moved into the studio for fifteen days of scheduled shooting, we didn't have to start making decisions. Because of our pre-production conferences with Director of Photography Floyd Crosby and Art Director Daniel Haller, everyone knew exactly what to do, barring any last minute inspirations on the set."
To create the flashbacks revealing Nicholas's traumatic experiences, Corman and Crosby attempted to shoot them in a manner that would convey to the audience the character's horror in dredging up nightmares trapped in his subconscious. Corman insisted on these images having a dream-like quality, "twisted and distorted because they were being experienced by someone on the rim of madness". Corman decided to film the flashbacks in
monochrome, since he had read that some psychiatrists believe most people dream in "black-and white" imagery. Crosby used wide-angle lenses, [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055304/technical Technical Specifications for Pit and the Pendulum] from the "Internet Movie Database". Crosby shot the film using the 35 mm anamorphicfilm process with Panavisioncameras and lenses.] violent camera movement, and tilted camera angles to represent the character's feeling of hysteria. The sequences were then printed on blue-tinted stock which was subsequently toned red during development, effectively producing a image. The highlights were blue, with the shadows rendered as red, producing a deep, bloody quality. The image was then run through an optical printerwhere the edges were vignetted and a twisted linear distortion was introduced.Lightman, Herb A. "The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study In Horror Film Photography", " American Cinematographer", October 1961 issue.]
The film's brief exterior
prologueshowing Kerr's arrival to the castle was filmed on the Palos Verdescoast. The rest of the production was shot in four interior sound stages at the California Studios in Hollywood. To provide great freedom for the planned camera movements, a castle set with many levels and ample space was designed by Daniel Haller. Because of the film's low budget, none of the sets could be constructed "from scratch". After Haller made sketches and floor plans for the sets, he searched the backlots and property lofts of the major studios in search of available set units that could be inexpensively rented and then put together to form the sets he had conceived. At Universal Studios, he located numerous discarded pieces from old productions, including massive archways, fireplaces, windows and doorways, and several torture machine props. At other studios, he found gigantic stairways and stone wall units. Haller selected and rented numerous pieces from these various depositories and had them delivered to California Studios, where the sets for the film were constructed, following his floor plans as closely as possible. To further set the atmosphere, about 20 gallons of cobwebbing was sprayed throughout the castle's sets. [Smith, Don G. "The Poe Cinema: A Critical Filmography". McFarland & Company, 1999. p. 117 ISBN 078641703X]
pressbooknoted that the pendulum was eighteen feet long and weighed over a ton, and was constructed with a realistic rubber cutting blade. The pendulum was rigged from the top of the sound stage thirty-five feet in the air. In an interview, Haller provided details regarding the creation of the pendulum::"I found that such a pendulum actually was used during the Spanish and German inquisitions. At first we tried to use a rubberized blade and that's why it got stuck on Kerr's chest. We then switched to a sharp metalized blade covered with steel paint. The problem was to get it in exactly the right position so it would slash John's shirt without actually cutting him. To guard against this we put a steel band around his waist where the pendulum crosses. He was a good sport about it but noticed him perspiring a good bit and no wonder. That pendulum was carving out a 50 foot arc just above his body.”
To visually enhance the size of this set, the camera was equipped with a 40 mm Panavision wide-angle lens and mounted at the opposite end of the stage, giving Crosby the ability to frame the scenes in his camera with extra space at the bottom and at either side. These areas were filled in later by printing-in process extensions of the set, doubling its size onscreen.
Vincent Priceas Nicholas/Sebastian Medina. This was Price's third film for American International Pictures and his second for director Corman. [cite web|url= http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=57806&mod=films|title=Vincent Price Filmography|accessdate=2007-03-22|first=|last=|publisher=New York Times.com] In response to the profitability of "House of Usher", Price "upped his asking price for "Pit" to $125,000, plus a percentage of the profits."Fischer, Dennis. "Horror Film Directors, 1931-1990", McFarland & Company, Inc., 1991. ISBN 0-89950-609-7] Most critics seemed to enjoy Price's somewhat hammy performance as the tormented, guilt-ridden victim of his "late" wife's evil machinations. Darrell Moore wrote that "Vincent Price returns to his usual overacting, ego-tripping self in "The Pit and the Pendulum". His wonderfully maniacal performance is the high point of the film."Moore, Darrell. "The Best, Worst, and Most Unusual Horror Films", Beekman House, 1983. ISBN 0-517-40266-8] And Nathaniel Thompson noted that "Vincent Price has a field day alternating from gibbering terror to teeth-gnashing insanity (sometimes in the same scene)..." [cite web|url= http://www.mondo-digital.com/talesofterror.html |title=Pit and the Pendulum|accessdate=2007-07-08|first=Nathaniel|last=Thompson|publisher=Mondo Digital.com] Some, however, thought his acting overly theatrical and damaging to the film's mood. Writer Ken Hanke felt the film had "...a few unintended laughs thanks to Vinnie's campiness."Hanke, Ken. "Mountain Xpress" (Asheville, NC), unknown date (quoted on Rotten Tomatoes.com)]
*John Kerr as Francis Barnard. The
Tony Award-winning actor (for " Tea and Sympathy" (1955)) had been a once-promising leading man in the 1950s, featured in major roles in the theatrical film versions of "Tea and Sympathy" (1956) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" (1958). His role as the nominal hero in "Pit" would prove to be the last notable film appearance of his career. [cite web|url= http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=37908 |title=John Kerr|accessdate=2007-01-08|first=Hal|last=Erickson|publisher=New York Times.com] Years later, Kerr expressed surprise that "Pit" seemed to be his best remembered role, "If you had told me years ago that "Pit and the Pendulum" would be The One out of all the stuff I've done, if you had told me that this would be the cult-type movie that people would be collecting memorabilia on, I would have said, 'You're out of your gourd.' Just ... no way. Noooo way!" [cite web|url= http://www.bmonster.com/cult33.html |title=The "Pit"falls of Working with Price|accessdate=2007-04-16|first=Tom|last=Weaver|publisher=The Astounding B Monster]
Barbara Steeleas Elizabeth. This was Steele's first film since her break-through horror performance in Mario Bava's "Black Sunday" (1960). The actress recalled that she was “in awe” of Price during the production and described the filming of their final scene together as surprisingly physical: “Our major confrontation where he strangles me was done in one take…He really went at me and I had the bruises on my throat to prove it. Afterward, he was so concerned he had hurt me – a perfect gentleman –a truly kind figure in spite of his image.”Biordowski, Steve, Del Valle, David and French, Lawrence. " Cinefantastique" magazine, Vol 19 No.1/Vol 19 No. 2 (January 1989), "Vincent Price: Horror's Crown Prince", pgs 40 - 85; 120] While watching the daily rushes of the movie, Corman became convinced that Steele’s “thick working classEnglish accent” was not blending well with the other cast members, so after the filming was completed he had all of her dialogue dubbed by a different actress.
Luana Andersas Catherine Medina. Anders's role as Price's (much younger) sister was one of several appearances she made in AIP productions. Most of these films were directed by Corman. The actress had first met Corman several years previously while both were attending acting classes taught by Jeff Coreyin Los Angeles. After "Pit", Anders would make two further films with Corman as a director, "The Young Racers" (1963) and "The Trip" (1967). [cite web|url= http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=79590 |title=Luana Anders|accessdate=2007-01-14|first=Hal|last=Erickson|publisher=New York Times.com]
Antony Carboneas Doctor Leon. Like Anders, Carbone was a brief member of Corman's early-1960s "stock company" of actors, appearing in four of the director's films during that time. Carbone's only starring role in his career had been in Corman's " Creature from the Haunted Sea" (1960), which co-starred writer Robert Towne. "Pit" was Carbone's final appearance in a Corman-directed movie.McGee, Mark Thomas. "Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts", McFarland & Company, Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-89950-330-6]
*Other cast: Patrick Westwood as Maximillian (the servant), Lynette Bernay as Maria (the maid), Larry Turner as Nicholas as child, Mary Menzies as Isabella, Charles Victor as Bartolome. [Note that [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055304/fullcredits/ The Internet Movie Database] includes another cast member: Randee Lynne Jensen as Extra (Uncredited). No other source mentions Jensen's appearance, including Robert Ottoson's comprehensive "American International Pictures: A Filmography", Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Taylor & Francis, 1984. ISBN 978-0824089764]
Prior to the start of filming, Corman had set aside one day of
rehearsals with his cast. "Previously, I had painstakingly rehearsed the actors so there was complete understanding as to what each was to accomplish in each scene. This is most important; there is nothing worse than to be on the set and ready to roll, only to find that director and actor have different views as to how the scene is to be done. Thanks to pre-production planning and rehearsals, there was no time wasted on the set in haggling and making decisions."Lightman, Herb A. "The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study In Horror Film Photography", " American Cinematographer", October 1961 issue.]
"The Pit and the Pendulum" was a bigger hit than "House of Usher", accruing over
US$2,000,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals versus the first film's US$ 1,450,000.Gebert, Michael. "The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards" (listings of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1960 and 1961, taken from "Variety" magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box officegross, which, according to Gebert, is normally roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.] According to writer Ed Naha, it also received a better critical response.Naha, Ed. "The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget", St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-312-95723-0] The majority of the film’s reviews were positive.
Howard Thompson of the "
The New York Times" wrote, “Atmospherically at least—there is a striking fusion of rich colors, plush décor and eerie music—this is probably Hollywood’s most effective Poe-style horror flavoring to date…Richard Matheson’s ironic plot is compact and as logical as the choice of the small cast…Roger Corman has evoked a genuinely chilling mood of horror.”Thompson, Howard. Review from "The New York Times" quoted in "The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget", Arco Publishing, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-668-05308-9] "Variety" noted, “The last portion of the film builds with genuine excitement to a reverse- twist endingthat might have pleased Poe himself...a physically stylish, imaginatively photographed horror film…” [cite web|url= http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117794021.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0 |title=Pit and the Pendulum|accessdate=2007-01-08|first=|last=|publisher=Variety.com] The "Los Angeles Examiner" said it was “…one of the best “scare” movies to come along in a long time…skillfully directed by Corman…with Vincent Price turning in the acting job of his career….”McGee, Mark Thomas. "Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures", McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-7864-0137-0] Brendan Gillof " The New Yorker" felt it was "a thoroughly creepy sequence of horrors..."Gill, Brendan. Review from "The New Yorker" quoted in "The Complete Films of Vincent Price", Citadel Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8065-1600-3] "Time" called the film “a literary hair-raiser that is cleverly, if self-consciously, Edgar Allan poetic.”Naha, Ed. "The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget", Arco Publishing, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-668-05308-9] " The Hollywood Reporter" described it as "...a class suspense-horror film of the calibre of the excellent ones done by Hammer...It is carefully made and has full production values...Vincent Price gives a characteristically rococoperformance..." " Time Out" opined, "Corman at his intoxicating best, drawing a seductive mesh of sexual motifs from Poe's story through a fine Richard Matheson script." [cite web|url=http://www.timeout.com/film/71147.html|title=Pit and the Pendulum|accessdate=2006-07-07|first=|last=|publisher=TimeOut.com]
But Charles Stinson of the "
Los Angeles Times" was notably unimpressed by the film: “The uncredited ["sic"] scenario violates Poe’s gothic style with passages of flat, modernized dialogue…But the peccadilloes of the script pale beside the acting…Price mugs, rolls his eyes continuously and delivers his lines in such an unctuous tone that he comes near to burlesquing the role. His mad scenes are just ludicrous. The audience almost died laughing.”Stinson, Charles. Review from the "Los Angeles Times" quoted in "The Complete Films of Vincent Price", Citadel Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8065-1600-3] Price was so infuriated by Stinson’s negative review that he wrote a letter to the critic, saying “I find I must break a 25 year determination never to answer a critic. Since your review of "The Pit and the Pendulum" was obviously not meant to be instructive, and therefore constructive, but only to hurt and humiliate, I’m sure you would enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that it did. My only consolation…is that it is the second greatest box office attraction in the country.” Price apparently never sent the letter, placing it instead into his “Letting Off Steam File”.
The film’s critical reputation has continued to grow over the years and it is now generally held to be one of the best entries in Corman's Poe series. In "
The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural", Timothy Sullivan wrote, “"The Pit and the Pendulum" is even better than its predecessor…The plot is heady stuff, and Roger Corman drives it forward with wonderful matte shots of the castle perched on the seaside cliff, odd camera angles, the thickest cobwebs in horror movie history, a spider in the face, and an iron maiden…all before our hero is strapped under the pendulum, in a sequence that still stands one’s hair on end.”Sullivan, Timothy. "The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural", edited by Jack Sullivan, Viking Penguin Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-670-80902-0 (Reprinted by Random House Value Publishing, 1989, ISBN 0-517-61852-4) ] Phil Hardy’s " The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror" observed, “If Price’s performance is noticeably more extravagant than in the earlier film, this is offset (or matched) by the markedly greater fluidity of camera movement. "House of Usher" seemed unsure of how to cope with the rush of action as Madeline returned from the grave; "The Pit and the Pendulum" has no such hesitations. From the great sequence in which Steele lures Price down into the crypt to the finale…its action is terrific.”Hardy, Phil (editor). "The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror", Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as "The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror", Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-518-X] Tim Lucas, in reviewing the film’s DVDrelease in 2001, wrote, “Benefitting from the boxoffice success of "House of Usher", "Pit" is a more elaborate production and features some of the definitive moments of the AIP Corman/Poe series.” And Glenn Erickson, reviewing the DVD on his “DVD Savant” website, noted, “Roger Corman's second Edgar Allan Poe adaptation is a big improvement on his first, "House of Usher"… Remembered as a first-rate chiller by every kid who saw it, "Pit and the Pendulum" upped the ante for frantic action and potential grue…” [cite web|url= http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s270pit.html |title="Pit and the Pendulum" DVD Review|accessdate=2007-01-02|first=Glenn|last=Erickson|publisher=DVD Savant]
Recent critical opinion of the film is not all positive. Of the 12 reviews included in a
Rotten Tomatoessurvey of critics regarding the title, 25% reflect negative reactions. [cite web|url= http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1016369-pit_and_the_pendulum/?critic=columns |title="The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961)|accessdate=2007-01-08|first=|last=|publisher=Rotten Tomatoes] FilmCritic.com opines that the film "...is quite a disappointment...In the end, it feels like one of [Corman's] rush jobs, which of course, it was." [cite web|url= http://www.filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/ddb5490109a79f598625623d0015f1e4/b7ce090e0846cabe88256a5a007a3fa7?OpenDocument |title="The Pit and the Pendulum"|accessdate=2007-01-08|first=Christopher|last=Null|publisher=FilmCritic.com]
The critical and popular success of "The Pit and the Pendulum" persuaded AIP's Arkoff and Nicholson to produce more Edgar Allan Poe-based horror films on a regular basis.Corman, Roger. Interviewed by David Del Valle in "
Video Watchdog" Magazine, issue #24 (August 1994), pgs. 32 - 47, "Ms. Found on a Cassette: Roger Corman on his AIP Poe Films"] The films that followed, all directed by Corman, were "The Premature Burial" (1962), "Tales of Terror" (1962), "The Raven" (1963), " The Haunted Palace" (1963, actually based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft), "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964), and" The Tomb of Ligeia" (1965). [cite web|url= http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=85920&mod=films |title=Roger Corman filmography|accessdate=2007-03-11|first=|last=|publisher=New York Times.com]
Tim Lucas has argued that the film had a large impact on many Italian horror films that followed. Lucas noted, "It takes Corman's
Freudiantheories even further with a nightmarish flashblack sequence that plants the seeds of Nicholas' breakdown, and would prove particularly influential on the future course of Italian horror — an influence that can be seen even in productions of the 1970s (" Deep Red") and 1980s ("A Blade in the Dark")."Lucas, Tim. " Video Watchdog" Magazine, issue #74, pg. 55. Review of "The Pit and the Pendulum" DVD ] Writer K. Lindbergs has noted an "obvious influence" on Antonio Margheriti's "Castle of Blood" (1964) and its remake, "Web of the Spider" (1970). [cite web|url=http://cinebeats.blogsome.com/2006/05/06/|title=The Ghosts of Antonio Margheriti|accessdate=2007-01-08|first=K|last=Lindbergs|publisher=Cinebeats] Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldiacknowledged that Ugo Guerra and Elio Scardamaglia, the producers of Mario Bava's " The Whip and the Body" (1963), had "shown me an Italian print of "The Pit and the Pendulum" before I started writing it: 'Give us something like this', they said." When asked if another of his films, "The Long Hair of Death" (1964), was inspired by Corman's film, Gastaldi replied: "Yes, of course! "The Pit and the Pendulum" had a big influence on Italian horror films. Everybody borrowed from it."Gastaldi, Ernesto. Interviewed by Tim Lucas in "Video Watchdog" Magazine, issue #39, pgs. 28 - 53, "What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood in the Scripts of Ernesto Gastaldi?"] Stephen Kingfelt that one of the film's most powerful shocks — the discovery of Elizabeth's hideously decayed corpse — had a major impact on the genre and served as one of the most significant horror sequences of the decade. King wrote, "Following the Hammer films, this becomes, I think, the most important moment in the post-1960 horror film, signaling a return to an all-out effort to terrify the audience...and a willingness to use any means at hand to do it."King, Stephen. "Danse Macabre", Berkley Books, 1981. ISBN 978-0-42-518160-7.]
Padded television version
In 1968, when the film was sold to ABC-TV for television airings, the network noted that the film was too short to fill the desired two-hour time slot. They requested that AIP pad the film out. Approximately five minutes of additional footage were subsequently shot by Corman’s
production assistant Tamara Asseyev.
Of the original cast members, only Luana Anders was available at the time, and the new sequence featured her character, Catherine Medina, confined to a lunatic asylum. After much screaming and hair pulling, Catherine reveals the details of her horrific story to her fellow inmates, at which point the film itself follows as a flashback.Williams, Lucy Chase. "The Complete Films of Vincent Price", Citadel Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8065-1600-3] This shot-for-television footage has been made available as an extra on the
MGMMidnite Movies DVD release of the film, but was erroneously advertised as being the "Original theatrical prologue". [cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055304/dvd |title= DVD details for Pit and the Pendulum|accessdate=2006-12-28|first=|last=|publisher=Internet Movie Database]
*imdb title|id=0055304 |title=The Pit and the Pendulum
* [http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:38241~T1 All Movie Guide: "The Pit and the Pendulum" entry]
* [http://www.mrqe.com/lookup?^Pit+and+the+Pendulum+(1961) "The Pit and the Pendulum" at MRQE]
* [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1016369-pit_and_the_pendulum/?critic=columns "The Pit and the Pendulum" at Rotten Tomatoes]
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