Loosely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name, The Pit and the Pendulum is a 1961 horror film set in the 16th century starring the legendary Vincent Price.
Despite having faded into relative obscurity, The Pit and the Pendulum embodies everything great about the earlier days of the horror genre. It’s got a tense, easy-to-grasp plot that is as simple as it is horrifying, and despite the technological restrictions of the time, great care was taken to ensure the movie’s visuals would be as atmospheric as possible.
The movie opens with Francis Barnard (John Kerr), a young Englishman, on his way to visit the Spanish castle of his brother-in-law, Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) in order to investigate his sister’s abrupt and unexplained silence.
Upon arriving, Barnard learns that his sister has died from a rare blood disorder, although it seems to the Englishman that Nicholas, his sister Catherine (Luana Anders) and family physician Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone) are hiding something, and he sticks around to get to the bottom of his sister’s suspicious death.
What he uncovers is far beyond what he – or the audience – could ever have suspected, with a twist that’s genuinely thrilling even after six decades.
The Pit and the Pendulum covers ground that’s since become well-trodden by horror and mystery movies alike, but it does it in such confident, emphatic fashion that you can’t help but sit up and take notice. Vincent Price delivers one of his finest performances as the tortured, unstable widower, delicately layering his performance with nuance and subtext that highlights his status as one of the all-time greats.
Despite its advancing years, The Pit remains a compelling and convincing experience that you won’t soon forget, and fans of classic cinema are sure to enjoy it from beginning to end.
Summary: A unique blend of retro-cheesiness and gothic atmosphere, everything about The Pit and the Pendulum is as mesmerising as its name would imply.