Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Lynette Bernay, Larry Turner, Mary Menzies, Charles Victor
Written by: Richard Matheson, based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by: Roger Corman
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80
Date: 08/12/1961

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Swing Blade

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After the success of The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum (1961, MGM/UA, $14.95) quickly followed. This time John Kerr journeys to Vincent Price's castle upon hearing that his sister, Price's wife (the great horror queen Barbara Steele), has died. Again the hero begins badgering everyone until the awful truth comes out -- that his sister was buried alive. In the end, the spirit of his dead father takes over Price and he straps Kerr to the evil title device. It's a truly stunning sequence, watching the shadow of the huge pendulum whoosh back and forth against the brick walls. All the Poe pictures benefited from extraordinary atmosphere (especially The Masque of the Red Death, which has yet to be released on DVD), and excellent use of color and widescreen frame. And though the big stars like Price (and Boris Karloff in the other films) provide rich performances, Corman was unable to get much more than cardboard performances out of his other players, like Damon and Kerr. It's hard to care whether or not the bland heroes get their way, but it's loads of fun watching Price mess with them.

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