Tormented (1960)

“A Terrifying Story of Supernatural Passion!” Okay, so this is a guilty pleasure that oscillates wildly between some effective atmospheric horror sequences (the opening lighthouse scene for example) and a few totally ludicrous plot twists flavored with some of the cheapest and dumbest special effects ever committed to film (witness the mannequin head sporting a wig and the “dummy” falling from the lighthouse at the end!). Whatever, Tormented kept me reasonably entertained and amused for the length of its sparse running time of just 75 minutes. Warning: major spoilers ahead! Directed by Bert I. Gordon (“Mr. B.I.G.”), Tormented stars Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon) as “Tom Stewart,” a jazz pianist living on a resort island whose old flame, nightclub singer “Vi” (Juli Reding), decides to pay him an unannounced, stalker-like visit a week before his marriage to the wealthy, much younger “Meg Hubbard” (Lugene Sanders). Of course, the spirited conversation between Tom and Vi takes place at the top of a creepy deserted lighthouse where Vi ends up slipping and hanging onto a broken railing for dear life and Tom just stands there refusing to help her out as she falls to her death. Strolling along the beach the next day, Tom sees Vi’s body floating in the surf and brings her to shore only to witness her miraculously transform into a clump of seaweed (I assure you I’m not making any of this up!). From then on, Vi’s ghost proceeds to haunt Tom in a variety of ingenious ways (footprints in the sand; jewelry turning up on the beach; a record playing by itself; a ghostly image in a photograph) and ridiculous ways (her disembodied hand stealing the wedding ring; her talking head floating in the room before Tom wraps it up, takes it outside and throws it down the stairs!). To make matters worse, Tom starts getting blackmailed by a sleazy ferry boat driver named “Nick” (Joe Turkel) who took Vi over to the island but got stiffed on the bill and now suspects foul play. Vi’s ghost goads Tom to murder Nick but the crime is witnessed by Meg’s little sister “Sandy” (Susan Gordon, daughter of the director). The wedding itself is a total disaster as Vi makes her presence known in a variety of ways such as wilting all the bouquets and blowing out the candles. A deranged Tom feels he has no choice but to get rid of the sole witness to his crime, Sandy, by taking her to the top of the lighthouse and throwing her off but Vi intercedes and it is Tom who takes the dive! A crowd on the beach pulls the bodies of both Tom and Vi (who is wearing the wedding ring meant for Meg) from the surf where they are locked in a morbid embrace. It seems like the unfortunate couple is stuck together for eternity! Look for Lillian Adams as the blind neighbor “Mrs. Ellis,” who relates a haunted legend of the island. Albert Glasser composed the score, while Ernest Laszlo served as cinematographer. Turkel portrayed “Lloyd the Bartender” in The Shining (1980) and “Eldon Tyrell” in Blade Runner (1982).

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