‘A horrendous tale of supernatural passion!’
The movie stars Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon; The Maze; It Came from Outer Space), Susan Gordon (Picture Mommy Dead), Lugene Sanders, Juli Reding and Joe Turkel (the barman in The Shining).
Jazz pianist Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson), who lives on a Cape Cod island community, is preparing to marry his fiancee Meg. Shortly before the wedding, Tom’s old girlfriend Vi (Juli Reding) visits and informs him that she will end Tom’s relationship with Meg, using blackmail if necessary.
While arguing on top of a lighthouse, the railing Vi is leaning against gives way. She manages to briefly hang on, but Tom refuses to help and watches her fall to her death.
The next day, Tom sees Vi’s body floating in the water. He retrieves her only to see the body turn into seaweed. Tom tries to forget what he’s seen, but over the next several days, all manner of strange occurrences happen. Vi’s watch washes up on the beach and mysterious footprints appear in the sand. Before long, Vi’s ghost appears and tells Tom that she will haunt him for the rest of his life.
One day, Meg’s little sister Sandy shows up and asks Tom if she can see the engagement ring. As Tom shows it to Sandy, he’s spooked by a disembodied hand that soon makes off with the ring. Soon afterwards, a party is held for Tom and Meg. Vi’s disembodied head makes a small appearance in a photo taken of Tom and Meg, and when he’s alone, Vi taunts Tom that she’ll now use her voice to tell the world how Tom Stewart killed her.
To add to Tom’s dilemma, a ferry-driving beatnik (Joe Turkel) comes looking for Tom, intent on collecting the $5 Vi owes him for her trip to the island. Tom’s haste to pay the fellow off causes the shifty man to stick around, where his attempts to blackmail Tom lead to the ferryman’s death. However, unbeknownst to Tom, Sandy has inadvertently witnessed the murder…
“The awkward structure and heavy reliance on overreaching and ridiculous visual effects are most unfortunate because they have the effect of distracting the viewer from what is honestly a fairly well-crafted ghost story. The conflict between Tom and the undead Vi is unusually thorny for a junky little B-picture, in that both parties are simultaneously victim and victimized.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Clocking in at a breezy 75 minutes, Tormented is a well-paced horror/thriller that weaves an engaging tale of ghostly revenge, and as low budget black and whites go, it’s one of the better ones…” 2,500 Movies Challenge
“A totally routine display of crawling hands, ghostly footprints, floating head and sinister superimpositions, although the first appearance of Reding’s corpse – smothered in and then becoming seaweed – it’s quite effective.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“The acting is what you’d expect from a B-picture horror film of the era, mostly schlock. Even Richard Carlson seems awkward in his role, especially as he feigns his jazz piano numbers. The other acting is barely noteworthy, though Joe Turkel (Village of the Giants) turns in an amusing performance as Nick, the blackmailer.” Exclamation Mark
“This Bert I. Gordon-directed ghost story has some very interesting ideas, but despite that and an interesting island setting, there’s something about the way the whole thing unfolds that strikes me as rather dull and dreary.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“Tormented has some moody scenes and decent camera work. It reminds me a bit of a William Castle film (some of the score was re-used by Allied Artists from Castle’s House on Haunted Hill). Really, all that is lacking is a gimmick or other ruse for the audience.” Monster Minions
“Bert I. Gordon’s handling consists of crudely atmospheric pop-up effects – Richard Carlson hearing gulls squawking his name; footprints appearing alongside his in the sand; the record made by Vi that keeps reappearing on the turntable after he takes it off and throws it away; he thinking he finds a body in the surf, which turns out to be a shape formed by seaweed…” Moria
” …it’s all about storytelling, no matter how much or how little special effects you have. Bert I. Gordon loves effects and he has a lot of them in Tormented, but they are low-key and consists mostly of ghostly figures floating around, a flying hand etc. Quite primitive and hardly scary nowadays, but surprisingly effective.” Ninja Dixon
” …the film’s use of a brazen jazz score in lieu of the expected heavily orchestrated scare chords. Surprisingly, the music works well to craft an atmosphere of unease and offers an effective counterbalance to the tame special effects and trite characters.” Not Coming to a Theater Near You
“Between the beatniks and the raging ocean and the disembodied head popping up whenever it’s least convenient, Tormented is a lot of fun…” Through the Shattered Lens
Cast and characters:
- Richard Carlson … Tom Stewart
- Susan Gordon … Sandy Hubbard
- Lugene Sanders … Meg Hubbard
- Juli Reding … Vi Mason
- Joe Turkel … Nick, The Blackmailer
- Lillian Adams … Mrs Ellis
- Gene Roth … Mr Nelson, lunch stand operator
- Vera Marshe … Mrs Hubbard (as Vera Marsh)
- Harry Fleer … Frank Hubbard
- Merritt Stone … Clergyman
- George Stanley … Wedding Guest
- Dick Walsh … Wedding Guest
- Leslie Thomas … Wedding Guest
- Paul Frees … Frank Hubbard (voice) (uncredited)
- 75 minutes
- Black and white
- Aspect Ratio: 1.37: 1
- Audio: Mono
According to an interview with Bert I. Gordon, an alternate edit of the film was made for foreign release that featured actress Juli Reding fleetingly naked.
Image thanks: Benito Medela