‘Where nothing grows but fear’
Torture Garden is a 1967 British anthology horror film produced by Amicus. It was directed by Freddie Francis (Tales from the Crypt; The Vampire Happening; The Skull) and scripted by Robert Bloch (The Psychopath; The Night Walker; Strait-Jacket). It stars Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Beverly Adams and Peter Cushing.
The score was a collaboration between Hammer horror regulars James Bernard and Don Banks.
Columbia Pictures released the film on a double-bill with Berserk. Free ‘Fright-Seeds’ were given out to American movie patrons with the instruction to plant them at midnight.
On 23 October 2017, Torture Garden is released as a limited edition region free Blu-ray in the UK by Powerhouse Films via their Indicator label.
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk
• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Ramsey Campbell on Robert Bloch (2017)
• Interview with Fiona Subotsky (2017)
• Interview with actress Barbara Ewing (2017)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Laura Mayne, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies
Plot (contains spoilers):
Five people visit a fairground sideshow run by the sinister Dr. Diabolo (Meredith). Having shown them a handful of haunted-house-style attractions, he promises them a genuinely scary experience if they will pay extra. Their curiosity gets the better of them, and the small crowd follows him behind a curtain, where they each view their fate through the shears of the female deity Atropos (Clytie Jessop).
In “Enoch”, a greedy playboy (Bryant) takes advantage of his dying uncle (Denham), and falls under the spell of a man-eating cat.
In “Terror Over Hollywood”, a Hollywood starlet (Adams) discovers her co-stars are androids.
In “Mr. Steinway”, a possessed grand piano by the name of Euterpe becomes jealous of its owner’s new lover (Ewing) and takes revenge.
And in “The Man Who Collected Poe”, a Poe collector (Palance) murders another collector (Cushing) over a collectable he refuses to show him, only to find his fate with Edgar Allan Poe himself.
In an epilogue, the fifth patron (Michael Ripper) goes berserk and uses the shears of Atropos to “kill” Dr. Diabolo in front of the others, causing them to panic and flee. It is then shown that he is working for Diabolo, and the whole thing was faked. As they congratulate each other for their acting, Palance’s character also commends their performance, revealing he had not run off like the others. He shares a brief exchange with Diabolo and lights a cigarette for him, then leaves.
Diabolo puts the shears back into the hand of Atropos, and breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience, revealing himself to actually be the Devil.
“If you’re a fan of cult British horror flicks from the 60′s, Torture Garden is a rare gem you won’t want to miss.Though by no means the best film of its kind, it’s a perfect example of the 60′s British cult horror movement and features many significant players of the period.” Mike Bazanele, Movie Cynics
“Whatever the film’s weaknesses, the wraparound story is one of the best ever contrived for an anthology; Bloch’s stories are amusingly horrible without ever being genuinely convincing and disturbing, and Francis serves it all up with as much panache as he could manage on the available recredited sources.” Steve Biodrowski, Hollywood Gothique
“As a gothic exercise with ex-cameraman Francis creating four enjoyable variations in style, from the shocker with the cat to the moody atmospherics of the mother-obsessed pianist with echoes of Bloch’s best known family romance, Psycho (1960), the film works well.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“One of the best Amicus compendium films, with Bloch’s ingenious stories giving Francis well-used opportunities to employ his stylish camera to atmospheric gothic effect.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“Above-average horror anthology, skillfully written by Bloch (he adapted four of his short stories), and imaginatively directed by Freddie Francis.” John Stanley, Creature Features
Cast and characters:
- Jack Palance as Ronald Wyatt (Dracula; Craze; Man in the Attic)
- Burgess Meredith as Dr. Diabolo (Magic; The Manitou; The Sentinel)
- Beverly Adams as Carla Hayes
- Peter Cushing as Lancelot Canning
- Michael Bryant as Colin Williams
- Barbara Ewing as Dorothy Endicott
- John Standing as Leo
- John Phillips as Storm
- Michael Ripper as Gordon Roberts
- Bernard Kay as Dr. Heim
- Maurice Denham as Uncle Roger
- Ursula Howells as Miss Chambers
- David Bauer as Charles
- Niall MacGinnis as Doctor
Thanks to Jonny Sambuca from the Amicus,Tyburn, Tigon Film Lovers Facebook group for the Columbia Tristar VHS sleeve image.
Posted by Will Holland