Monday, January 20, 2014

Tormented (1960)


Jazz pianist Richard Carlson is on the verge of recognition and marriage to the daughter of a wealthy businessman. But an old flame turns up threatening blackmail. There is an accident at a lighthouse and he lets her die when he could have saved her. But her spirit is not so easily disposed of

Producer-director Bert I. Gordon was best known for low grade creature features such as 'THE CYCLOPS' (1956) and 'THE BEGINNING OF THE END' (1957) (giant grasshoppers attack!) but by the late 1950s the cycle of atomic monster movies was pretty much played out. The success of 'PSYCHO' (1960) kick started a rash of more suspense orientated horrors and Gordon duly made his contribution with this ghost story set on an island complete with the creepy abandoned lighthouse.

Lead actor Carlson had already conquered outer space ('RIDERS TO THE STARS' (1954)), tangled with aliens ('IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE' (1953)) and got cosy with 'THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON' (1954) so talking to his ex-girlfriend's disembodied head wasn't much of a stretch. Unfortunately, that gives you an idea of the lack of subtlety on display here. At first, the ghost's appearances are understated and you wonder if it's all in Carlson's mind but the SFX (by the director and his wife) just get cheesier and cheesier, although they are professionally done.

She had him by the short & curlies.. or was it the other way around?Carlson is marrying pretty Lugene Sanders but her father doesn't approve, a musician in the family is bad enough apparently but a jazz musician?! His intended also has an annoying younger sister who hangs around and does magic tricks. She gets an awful lot of screen time and becomes more integral to the plot than the Sanders character, who is the obvious heroine and love interest. Why? Because she's being played by 11 year old Susan Gordon - the director's daughter!

Miss Gordon had already debuted in her father's 'ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE' (1958) and finished her career at the age of 17 in another of his films: 'PICTURE MOMMY DEAD' (1966) with Don Ameche and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Joe Turkel ('THE SHINING' (1980), 'BLADE RUNNER' (1982)) also turns up as a hipster boat captain cum blackmailer.

Proceedings don't add up to an awful lot but there are some odd memorable moments such as the wilting flowers at the wedding ceremony and the remote coastal setting. On the debit side, the intrusive jazzy soundtrack doesn't work at all and the ending is flat and lifeless.

Gordon went back to creature features in the 1970s with his fairly ludicrous H.G. Wells' adaptations 'THE FOOD OF THE GODS' (1976) and 'EMPIRE OF THE ANTS' (1977), which starred Joan Collins. Gordon and some giant insects couldn't save her career but having sex in a lift with Oliver Tobias could. Go figure. I know what I'd rather see.
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