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TORTURE GARDEN(director: Freddie Francis; screenwriter: Robert Bloch/based on the short stories by Robert Bloch; cinematographer: Norman Warwick; editor: Peter Elliott; music: Don Banks/James Bernard; cast: Burgess Meredith (Dr Diablo). Enoch: Michael Bryant (Colin Williams), Maurice Denham (Uncle Roger). Terror Over Hollywood: Beverly Adams (Carla Hayes), Robert Hutton (Bruce Benton), John Phillips (Eddie Storm), David Bauer (Mike Charles), Bernard Kay (Dr Helm). Mr Steinway: Barbara Ewing (Dorothy Endicott), John Standing (Leo). The Man Who Collected Poe: Jack Palance (Ronald Wyatt), Peter Cushing (Lancelot Canning); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Max J. Rosenberg/Milton Subotsky; Columbia; 1967-UK)
“An uneven but overall effective horror portmanteau that is ably directed by the London-born Freddie Francis.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second of Amicus’s horror anthologies is an uneven but overall effective horror portmanteau that is ably directed by the London-born Freddie Francis (“The Psychopath”/”Nightmare”/”Dr Terror’s House of Horrors”), who is more skilled as a cameraman than a storyteller. Francis started out as a cinematographer and from 1955 to 1961 was considered the tops at his craft in Great Britain. Its title is misleading, since there is no torture or garden–the title was lifted from the 1900 novel by Octave Mirbeau. Renown pulp horror writer Robert Bloch (best known for his novel Psycho, used by Hitchcock) adapted to film four of his stories (“Enoch,” “Terror over Hollywood,” “Mr. Steinway,” and “The Man Who Collected Poe”). The stories, in which only the last one isn’t totally ridiculous, involve a telepathic killer cat, actors replaced by robot doubles, a jealous piano and, the best story is saved for last, about a manic Poe collector and an more manic one who has also managed to collect the spirit of Poe himself.

The framing device has Burgess Meredith as a sideshow carnival barker, really a Mephistophelean figure calling himself Dr. Diabolo, who claims that his torture exhibit can predict the future. Five patrons retreat to his back room and he offers them grisly glimpses of their fate and innermost desires. The film then segues into the telling of the four horror stories.

EnochA greedy Colin Williams visits his supposedly wealthy frail elderly uncle ((Maurice Denham), after no contact for three years, and is determined to make sure he gets his inheritance by preventing his uncle from taking his medicine until he tells where he hid his fortune. But uncle kicks the bucket. When Colin moves into his uncle’s mansion, he discovers in the basement a talking cat named Balthazar that demands Colin obey his orders to kill and in return will be told where his uncle kept his fortune hidden.

Over HollywoodAspiring actress Beverly Adams while pursuing a part in a film. falls for her leading man, Bruce Benton, and shockingly discovers the horrific secret of his seemingly eternal youth–that Dr Heim (Bernard Kay) had turned her idol into a living robot with a metal body beneath the flesh exterior. Soon Beverly is made into a robot and the film’s premiere she attends, a fan shouts “Isn’t she a beautiful, a living doll!”

Mr SteinwayJournalist Barbara Ewing goes to interview the introverted concert pianist John Standing. They become romantically involved but when she tries to draw Standing away from his beloved grand piano, it seems it’s possessed by the malevolent spirit of his dead mother and the jealous piano retaliates against its rival by forcing her through a window to her to death.

The Man Who Collected PoeJack Palance is a dedicated and obsessive Edgar Allan Poe collector who visits another like minded Poe collector, Peter Cushing, and a drunken Cushing makes Palance salivate as he shows him his secret collection of unpublished Poe works. As the story goes, Cushing has brought Poe back to life to write new stories in his basement hideaway.

Francis changed the ending to the Poe story without telling the producers, but his ending left no motivation for the place burning up and so producer Subotsky wrote the ending we saw in the film that keeps in the fire and the motivation for the fire.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”