Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations have always been sumptuous – which is remarkable considering that these movies were made on a very low budget. Begging, borrowing and stealing from other films, the sets in these films have always given them scope that belies their origins. When you look back on them today you see films of quality, not something that was intended as a B-movie.
One of Vincent Price’s legendary collaborations with Roger Corman, The Pit And The Pendulum is a masterclass is how to adapt a short story that isn’t really adaptable. Using Edgar Allan Poe’s story as a launching point, Corman creates a tale that is high on camp and style. He takes Poe’s scant pages and turns them into a film that feels like a coherent story that could have sprung from Poe’s pen.
This 1961 film may no longer be scary, but it is entertaining. It drips with atmosphere as Corman teases you along. The titular pit and pendulum may only appear at the film’s climax, but there’s much to be entertained with along the way. We don’t get movies with haunted castles, hidden passages and eerie crypts anymore. These horror tropes have been replaced with found footage and gore. There’s an old world behind The Pit And The Pendulum, a world that must not be forgotten. This is what horror is to me, an atmospheric world where Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe collide.
This image shows Roger Corman inspecting the pendulum prop on the incredibly impressive set of the 1961 horror.
Budgeted at $300,000, The Pit And The Pendulum became American International Pictures’ highest grossing film in 1961 when it grossed $2 million dollars at the US box office.