Movie Review: Tormented (1960) – Film Masters Blu-ray

July 5, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Apparent chick magnet Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson, The Creature From the Black Lagoon) is a jazz musician who  just got a slight crimp in his plans to marry his fiancée Meg Hubbard (Lugene Sanders) in the form of jealous ex-lover Vi (Juli Reding), who shows up at a lighthouse next to Tom’s Cape Cod residence and informs his ass there is no way she is letting him get hitched.

Things start coming up Tom when Vi falls to her death from the lighthouse, and although he could easily save her life Tom watches her plummet to the icy waters below. Well, problem fuckin’ solved I guess…

Of course Tom’s shitty ways soon catch up with him, as the preternatural goings-on begin to mount, which isn’t helped much by the lore spun by the locals that only accentuates the supernatural shenanigans experienced by our hero… unnatural events that leads one to believe Vi is back from the dead and ready to take a sinister stroll down Revenge Road!

Bert I. Gordon’s (The Amazing Colossal Man, The Food of the Gods) Tormented is a solid entry in the rather specific genre of Beatnik Gothic horror (think Corman’s A Bucket of Blood from 1959… though that film is comedic, while this is a more straightforward fright flick affair); heady mixes of Jazz and Poe that are as entertaining as they are totally of their time.

Tormented (which Gordon co-wrote with George Worthing Yates, who also penned 1954’s giant ant-filled monsterpiece, Them!) is a solid take on the aforementioned Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 short story The Tell-Tale Heart, presenting an atmospheric yarn filled that ramps nicely with both the ghostly happenings and the lengths Tom will go to cover his crime/save his ass.

Speaking about good ol’ Tom, Carlson does a fantastic job of portraying our main man’s slip into insanity as he attempts to deal with assaults on his mental well-being on all sides. Speaking of which, Reding delivers a breathy, Monroe-like performance as the doomed Vi, but she isn’t afraid to crank up the spooky as required… but by far my favorite performance of the piece is Joe Turkel (The Shining, Blade Runner) as a shit-heel sailor who slings hip lingo six ways to Sunday as he goes about his business of blackmailing Tom.

Thankfully all of that horror biz looks amazing here thanks to Film Masters utilizing a new 4k scan of a 35mm print of Tormented, which features sharp contrast, rich, deep blacks, solid detail levels, and a minimum of damage to the image.

The enjoyment of everything mentioned above is enhanced thanks to the special features included here, which start off with an audio commentary courtesy of writer/filmmaker Gary Rhodes that covers Gordon’s career, plenty of anecdotes about production (and after), and more in a highly entertaining and informative listen.

Also present are an archival interview with Gordon, a doc on Gordon’s ’50s and ’60s output, a visual essay analyzing the film’s themes, an unaired pilot created by Gordon called Famous Ghost Stories (hosted by Vincent Price!), and a duo of trailers in raw and re-cut formats respectively.

Also present is a complete Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode lampooning the film, as well as a full color booklet with new writing on the filmed provided by film historian Tom Weaver and author/filmmaker John Wooley (who discusses actress Susan Gordon’s (Bert’s daughter who played Sandy, Meg’s young sister in the picture) career!

Tormented is atmospheric, fraught with tension, and seasoned with a heaping helping of the ghoulish good stuff!


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