‘Where nothing grows but fear’
Torture Garden is a 1967 British anthology horror film involving stories about people who visit Dr Diabolo’s fairground haunted-house show.
The score was a collaboration between Hammer horror regulars James Bernard and Don Banks.
Five people visit a fairground sideshow run by the sinister Doctor 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” Doctor 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.” 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 resources.” 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
Lancelot Canning [Peter Cushing]: “No, no. I’ve had enough. If I got on drinking like this you’ll think I’m Poe himself.”
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 was 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):
Cast and characters:
Jack Palance … Ronald Wyatt (segment 4 “The Man Who Collected Poe”)
Burgess Meredith … Doctor Diabolo (Framework Story)
Beverly Adams … Carla Hayes (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Peter Cushing … Lancelot Canning (segment 4 “The Man Who Collected Poe”)
Michael Bryant … Colin Williams (segment 1 “Enoch”)
John Standing … Leo Winston (segment 3 “Mr Steinway”)
Robert Hutton … Bruce Benton (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
John Phillips … Eddie Storm (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Michael Ripper … Gordon Roberts (Framework Story)
Bernard Kay … Dr Heim (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Catherine Finn … Nurse Parker (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Maurice Denham … Uncle Roger (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Ursula Howells … Miss Maxine Chambers (segment 3 “Mr Steinway”)
David Bauer … Mike Charles (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Niall MacGinnis … Dr Silversmith (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Nicole Shelby … Millie (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Roy Stevens … Constable (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Norman Claridge … Police Sergeant (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Hedger Wallace … Edgar Allan Poe (segment 4 “The Man Who Collected Poe”) (as Geoffrey Wallace)
Clytie Jessop … Atropos – Goddess of Destiny
Timothy Bateson … Fairground Barker (Framework Story)
Roy Godfrey … Collector (segment 4 “The Man Who Collected Poe”)
James Copeland … Fred (segment 2 “Terror Over Hollywood”)
Barry Low … Tramp (segment 1 “Enoch”)
Barbara Ewing … Dorothy Endicott (segment 3 “Mr Steinway”)
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England
93 minutes | 101 minutes (2017 Mill Creek Blu-ray)
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Full film – free to watch online in 1080p HD: