From Oscar winning cinematographer, Freddie Francis comes a tale of terror that will chill you to the bone! Written by Robert Bloch (the author of 'Psycho') and boasting a cast that includes Peter Cushing, Burgess Meredith and Jack Palance, this is a must have for all horror fans. A special sideshow torture exhibit has the power, according to the showman Dr Diablo (Meredith), to warn people of the evil in their futures. But with this faustian pact comes terrible consequences...
Tepid Terrors & Lukewarm Chills
- Torture Garden review by Count Otto Black
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This is yet another of those portmanteau horror movies that Amicus, Hammer's most successful rivals, specialized in. The all have exactly the same structure: four or five people find themselves in some slightly creepy place, in this film a tacky carnival sideshow, and a strange man gives each of them a vision of some extremely improbable and almost invariably fatal event which turns out to be either their predestined fate, or something which has already happened because they've died and gone to Hell. Or something very much along those lines. "Torture Garden" is one of the most obscure of these films. Unfortunately, that's because it isn't very good.
The 12 certificate should warn you that if you're expecting horror, you'll get extremely little of it indeed. In fact, at no point are we given more than the briefest of glimpses of anything nasty, nothing truly scary happens, and the whole thing barely qualifies as a horror movie at all. The cast is also rather disappointing. Most of these films take advantage of their episodic nature to have numerous surprisingly famous guest stars, since if they only appeared in one 20-minute segment, they didn't need to be hired for very long, but although we do get Peter Cushing, who was almost a permanent fixture in these things, and Jack Palance is delightfully cast against type as an over-excited and rather camp academic with a passion for Poe, most of the others are decidedly B-list at best, and some of the acting, especially that of the women, is atrocious. And Burgess Meredith, in the rôle usually given to Peter Cushing of the sinister man in the linking segments who reveals the ghastly fates of everybody else, is literally a pantomime villain; I kept expecting the Adam West version of Batman to rush in and punch him.
I was about to say that it's probably a bad idea for directors of horror films to attempt to persuade the audience that possessed pianos are a credible threat, but this movie and the completely bonkers Japanese horror-comedy-surrealism extravaganza "Hausu" were made in the same year, and they both feature homicidal pianos as well as possessed pussycats, so I guess that in 1967, everybody was smoking the same stuff as the Beatles. However, "Hausu" uses these ridiculous concepts infinitely more imaginatively. "Torture Garden" passes the time adequately, but it's definitely not a classic of its kind. And I sometimes had the feeling that I was watching a horror movie aimed at children. Robert Bloch, better known for "Psycho", allegedly wrote the script, but you could have fooled me.