The Black Torment (1964)

DECEMBER 15, 2009


Who the hell recommended The Black Torment to me? At first I thought it was something I read about in "Rue Morgue" or something, but the DVD was printed in 2003, long before I even read that magazine (and certainly before I was blindly renting horror movies). And it’s not the type of thing that would come up in Blockbuster’s pitiful recommendation programming. Nor does it have any actor I recognize. So again, what the hell?

Well at any rate I’m not going to recommend it to anyone else. It’s not terrible, just sort of uninteresting. The plot seems cobbled together from a dozen other films of the era, what with people thinking that they are seeing ghosts and families fighting over land and a lot of melodramatic misunderstandings across the board. And (spoiler) any movie where they just pull out the “it was your twin brother!” twist is automatically worthy of scorn. Come on now, did people really accept this sort of horseshit back in the 60s? I couldn’t even accept it in Shriek If You Know... and that was a lowbrow spoof movie! This movie is deathly serious, so they should refrain from resorting to such hackery.

Now by deathly serious I mean by intention, not execution. There are certainly a couple of unintentionally hilarious lines, such as when a woman innocently inquires “She killed herself because of a Latin quotation?” (wouldn’t be the first time! "Carpe diem", Mr. Sean Leonard). And I’m always delighted by the sight of a bunch of powdered wig-donning girly men running around a big mansion. And the head wig guy gets so bored by the climactic sword fight that he begins addressing other matters as he watches it go down, issuing a command to take away a body with all the conviction of a guy asking his wife to turn the TV up a bit because she’s closer.

But man is it dull for the most part. There’s a five minute chunk of the film devoted to two guys arguing over whether or not one of them ordered a custom saddle. The whole movie is built around people saying that this guy has been seen doing things in town when he claims to have been 100 miles away, so why they’d add another such example that revolves around a fucking saddle - one of the least interesting objects in all of creation - is beyond me. And the aforementioned sword fight is just as endless and un-exciting; I could care less about the outcome, yet they milk it for a good 3-4 minutes.

It’s also exceptionally dark. Here’s an example:

Now, I haven’t the slightest goddamn clue what the hell we are seeing there (an unlit candlestick... I THINK some stairs), but it seems to be scary, because the composer suddenly begins to make some horror movie music instead of the Yankee Doodle-esque brass stuff he favors in most of the other scenes. It might be an artifact of the DVD (I’ve never heard of the company - Salvation Group?), but the daytime scenes seemed to be correct (as opposed to being too dark as well which would likely be the case if it was just a poor transfer), so I dunno. Either way it botches a few scares and renders a few others a bit puzzling, as people will be talking and you can’t see who. It actually works for the opening scene though, as the killer’s hands are all we really see as he takes out his first victim (it’s also the best scare scene in the film, which kind of sucks as it’s the first and then there’s another 80 minutes or so to go).

The DVD has a photo gallery. Why people would want to see a bunch of stills from the movie they just watched, I don’t know, but hey, at least it keeps me from saying “The disc doesn’t have any extra features” again.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. You just may have convinced me to watch it.

  2. I watched this recently because it was mentioned in Rue Morgue. I had the same opinion as you, though maybe enjoyed it a bit more. It was worth watching once, but don't need to see it again.


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