Wednesday, May 8, 2013


"I always wanted to get a head in the world..."

I watched TORMENTED (1960) the other night. I had recorded it off of  TCM. I'd seen this one years ago but it was fun to revisit it.

The film deals with a jazz concert pianist Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson), who is about to be married. Trouble is, his old girlfriend, Vi (the voluptuous Juli Reding, whose head is seen above) threatens to reveal that Tom and Vi are still an item to his fiancee Meg (Lugene Sanders) and ruin his impending nuptials. Tom and Vi confront each other at an abandoned lighthouse at the beginning of the film. Vi accidentally falls to her death and Tom is freed from her threats. But before long, Tom is haunted by visions of Vi which drive him crazy.

Is Tom really haunted by Vi's ghost or is it all in his imagination? The evidence points to a real haunt and Tom becomes increasingly agitated. A ferry boat skipper (Joe Turkel) whom Vi owed money to shows up and figures out that since Vi hasn't left the island, something must have happened to her. He starts to blackmail Tom and Tom is driven by Vi's ghost to murder the man. Unknown to Tom, there is a witness to his evil deed, Sandy (Susan Gordon), Meg's little sister. Now with two deaths on his conscience and a witness to one of the deaths, Tom is on the verge of a complete crack-up. Tom and Sandy find themselves back at the lighthouse at the film's climax where Tom is forced to try and murder the little girl. Of course, the vengeful ghost of Vi shows up and causes Tom to tumble into the sea and to his death. 

TORMENTED is one strange little film. Two of the actors bear uncanny resemblances to other people. Richard Carlson looks just like the late comic actor Phil Hartman. I always thought that should there ever be a remake of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, Hartman would be a shoo-in for the Richard Carlson part. Alas, that's never to be. Joe Turkel is a dead-ringer for a young Harlan Ellison. Ellison, is of course,a writer of science fiction and other works and is one of my personal favorite authors. .And Juli Reding, who plays Vi, could have been voted by ten out of ten men as the "ghost they'd most like to be haunted by."

Then there's the blind real-estate lady. I'm not making this up. How does a blind realtor "show" a property? She may be blind but she can, of course, sense that there is something otherworldly at play. And how about the bizarre relationship between Carlson and young Susan Gordon, who plays his fiancees' little sister? Gordon, the daughter of director Bert I. Gordon, is a surprisingly competent little actress but Carlson and Gordon have more chemistry and strange attraction between them than Carlson and Sanders. 

Of course, this being a Bert I. Gordon film, the special effects are cheap, ineffective and laughable. TORMENTED may be one of the very few films that Gordon made that didn't involve size permutations  of one sort or another. His filmography is loaded with such B-movie classics as KING DINOSAUR, THE CYCLOPS, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, BEGINNING OF THE END, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS, THE FOOD OF THE GODS and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, all of which feature either very large (or, in one case, very small) human and animal menaces. 

TORMENTED has a mercifully short running time of 75 minutes and the material would have worked just as well as an episode of any hour-long television anthology show. Worth seeing if you're a genre fan. If not, forget it.

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