Roger Corman’s best work was adapting Edgar Allen Poe’s stories to film. As king of the B movies, Corman made a lot low budget crap. In 1960 Corman and writer Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Legend of Hell House) adapted House of Usher which became a surprise hit for Corman and American International Pictures. Naturally a follow-up had to be done.
In 1961 The Pit and the Pendulum hit theatres. Vincent Price was once again cast as the villain. Set in the 16th century, the movie has John Kerr paying his brother-in-law Vincent Price a visit. Kerr’s sister Barbara Steele died under mysterious circumstances and Kerr wants answers. It’s eventually revealed that Price’s father was a member of the Spanish Inquisition and he has a thing for torture devices.
The movie only really follows Poe’s story for the final act of the film. The story is only two pages long (give or take) so Matheson needed to create more to make a full length movie out of the story. And what a story. There are several horrific revelations and some grisly deaths along the way to the horrifying ending.
This is easily the best of the eight Corman Poe movies although House of Usher is pretty damn good too. It was a bigger hit for Corman grossing $2,000,000, which in 1961 was a lot, especially for a movie with a budget $300,000. The movie also had an influenced the onslaught of Italian horrors that came in the late 1960’s and early ’70s. Not too shabby for a low budget quickie.