A while back I brought you one of my favorite Amicus anthologies From Beyond the Grave. I decided to continue the theme this week, but with my least favorite.
The wraparound story takes place in a carnival sideshow. Dr. Diablo (Meredith) shows five marks a few funhouse exhibits, like a “live” execution. He then entices them to see something much scarier and personal, for just a few dollars more. One by one, each person can view their possible fate.
The first story is ‘Enoch.’ Down on his luck and desperate for money, Colin Williams (Michael Bryant) visits his dying uncle. As the uncle’s only living relative Colin believes he will be the heir to a fortune. His uncle tries to convince him to be a better person and stop being greedy, but Colin only has one thing on his mind. After his uncle dies, he starts digging in the basement. Unfortunately, instead of money, he discovers an evil cat who wants Colin to kill in exchange for gold.
Next we have ‘Terror over Hollywood’ where Carla Hayes (Beverly Adams) is an ambitious actress, looking for her big break. After sabotaging her roommate’s date with a producer, she gets it. She starts asking too many questions about her seemingly ageless leading man and his peculiar habits, and discovers there is more going on in Hollywood than she ever imagined.
In ‘Mr. Steinway,’ Dorothy Endicott (Barbara Ewing) meets concert pianist Leo Winston (John Standing). They fall in love, but Leo has a jealous mistress, his piano, Euterpe. When Leo and Dorothy decide to run away together, Euterpe takes her anger out on Dorothy.
The final installment, ‘The Man Who Collected Poe,’ Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance), is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and is eager to add to his collection. He meets Lancelot Canning (Peter Cushing), a man with a very complete collection, who is unwilling to sell. Canning invites Wyatt to view all of his possessions, all but one, Poe himself. He discovers the secret to immortality through Poe and a deal with the Devil.
In the end, only one of our marks is willing to accept their proposed fate, but you’ll have to watch to see which one.
Torture Garden has many things I love; Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing, Jack Palance, direction by Freddie Francis, and a sideshow theme, but sadly, put together, they don’t work for me here. The stories are all written by Robert Bloch and, while I’m sure the short stories they’re based on are great, they don’t necessarily translate to screen. It feels much longer than it’s 93 minute runtime.
It’s a continuity nightmare and one of my biggest issues is with the first story. The cat Colin uncovers is supposedly a male cat named Balthazar. However, the cat is a tortoiseshell, which, in nature, is always female. Petty? Probably, but that’s the crazy cat lady in me.
I can never say enough wonderful things about Meredith and Cushing, but I was rather disappointed in Palance. His role was one he was more than fit for, but he really overacted and his performance seemed both phoned in and ridiculous.
When all is said and done, this falls short for Amicus and there are much better offerings. Maybe we’ll talk about that next week.