Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tormented (1960)

Though it's let down a bit by an ending so overwrought as to be comical, this is on the whole a pretty well put-together little "vengeful ghost" story.  That's somewhat surprising really, coming to us as it does from Bert I. Gordon, who is best known for this gamut of trashy giant monster movies.

Jazz pianist Tom Stewart is engaged to a wealthy, beautiful young woman.  His former flame, Vi, is less than happy that he's moved on and visits him with an ultimatum: end his engagement and return to her, or she will find a way to destroy it herself.  Tom refuses, and as the conversation grows heated, the railing Vi is leaning on gives way.  She manages to catch herself though, and is left dangling over the deadly drop.  If Tom pulls her up, she'll live.

Tom does not.

He doesn't stamp on her fingers, or take any action to make her fall, you understand.  But he consciously and deliberately withdraws his hand, rather than reaching out to aid her, thus becoming culpable in her death.

Of course, Tom doesn't say a word of this to his fiancee, but if he thinks his troubles are over, he's definitely in for a rude surprise.  He begins to see things that aren't there: wet footprints in the carpet, a floating hand wearing the ring he meant for his wedding, and so forth.  A pile of stinking seaweed also somehow ends up all over his fiancee's wedding dress (which is the only one of the phenomena that anyone else sees).

Tom's problems aren't just limited to these apparently ghostly visitations, however.  There's also the small matter of the boat owner who brought Vi to Tom's island home.  The sailor figures the groom is getting some action on the side, and that there must be a payoff to be had from that.

Now if it sounds to you like Tom's problems are entirely of his own making, then you're not alone.  And the movie (thankfully) doesn't paint him as an innocent in all this, which is probably one of my favourite things about it.

Tormented has a solid cast, and serviceable effects (particularly in light of its age and budget).  The script generates some tension and unease in places, and shows the unraveling of Tom's world pretty well.  I enjoyed it, and if the premise interests you at all, you probably will too.

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