Anthology horror films have always been a favourite of mine and Amicus Films made a few good ones in the late 1960’s and early 70s, Torture Garden was made in 1967 after the success of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and had a couple of Hollywood stars as well as starring regular horror favourite Peter Cushing.
Sideshow psychic Dr Diabolo (Burgess Meredith) predicts the horrific futures of some curious fairground visitors. Wealthy Colin (Michael Bryant) finds himself compelled to murder. Ruthless actress Carla (Beverly Adams) discovers that movie stars have a shocking secret. Lovestruck reporter Dorothy (Barbara Ewing) does battle with the spirit of her beloved’s dead mother. And greedy Edgar Allan Poe collector Ronald (Jack Palance) finds out a horrifying truth about his idol after murdering a rival.
Robert Bloch the author of Psycho penned the stories here and it is a real mixed bag. The best two are the first and last, Enoch and The Man Who Collected Poe, interesting tales told well with good acting and subtle if effective scares. That’s the main problem with the film is that it has dated badly in some parts and the horror is very mild by today’s standards.
While this is not a bad thing in most cases, here it just does not work that well in a few of the stories, although the idea of a circus sideshow run by Satan himself is fun and Burgess Meredith gives a scene-chewing performance holding all the stories together, although the makeup effects really lets the climactic scene down badly.
The disc by Indicator is another winner, a great transfer warm and bright colours and solid blacks make for a very enjoyable presentation. A bonus is that you have two versions of the film to choose from, the theatrical edit or the longer TV version which added 7 minutes to the running time. Audio has a PCM 1.0 linear mono track and is clear and damage-free.
A great selection of extras include:
- The Guardian Interview with Freddie Francis (1995, 77 mins): the great cinematographer and director in conversation with journalist Alan Jones recorded at the National Film Theatre, London.
• Production Supervisor Ted Wallis on ‘Torture Garden’: a brief look at the film’s production
• Ramsey Campbell on Robert Bloch: the horror-fiction author explores the importance of the prolific Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky on Milton Subotsky: a personal remembrance
• Kim Newman on ‘Torture Garden’: new appreciation by the author and genre-film expert
• Original theatrical trailer
• Stills Gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• Lobby Cards and Posters Gallery: an extensive selection of original international promotional material
• Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Laura Mayne, an overview of Amicus Productions, and extracts from the original press kit, advertising and promotion guide.
One of the weaker entries in the Amicus horror portmanteau cycle, but given a superb release with excellent extras by Indicator.
FILM: 6 PICTURE: 8 AUDIO: 7 EXTRAS: 8.5