Pit And The Pendulum (1961)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/13/19
Directed And Produced By: Roger Corman
Music: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone

Englishman Francis Barnard (John Kerr) travels to Spain to inquire about his sister's death. What he finds is a puzzling mystery with more questions than answers. His brother in-law Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) is wracked with guilt about the entire affair and appears to have a touch of madness. His sister Catherine (lovely Luana Anders) and personal physician Charles Leon (Antony Carbone) try to comfort both Nicholas and Francis as much as they can, but strange things are stirring in the Medina castle that lead the characters to believe that Elizabeth's spirit (Barbara Steele) is haunting them. Is it really a ghost, or it Nicholas playing tricks, or is some third party trying to drive Nicholas insane? When the mystery is solved, everyone's life becomes endangered, which leads to a tense showdown in the Medina's notorious torture chamber.

The similarites between this and Roger Corman's "House Of Usher" (1960) are striking. Both star Vincent Price, have music composed by Les Baxter, and use very similar sets. The main protagonists in both films are interchangeable and each film begins in the exact same way: a young man travels to a creepy mansion owned by an eccentric madman to inquire about a doomed woman. The themes of evil houses, sins of the father, and being buried alive are also shared between the two films. Vincent Price gives a stellar performance as the tragic and tortured Nicholas Medina, who may or may not be completely innocent. Luana Anders is stunningly pretty, but can't act at all. Perhaps her ridiculously tight garments restricted her ability to emote and express herself. Barbara Steele gets third billing, even though she only appears in a handful of scenes and isn't particularly memorable, while John Kerr is stiff, dull, and underwhelming (much like Mark Damon in "House Of Usher"). The visual effects are weak and the matte paintings are embarrassingly poor, but otherwise it's a decent production and a fun classic horror film.