Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A film Roman Polanski would love?

Tormented (1960)
Starring: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Lugene Sanders, and Juli Reding
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Tom Stewart (Carlson), a third-rate ladies' man, lands himself a beautiful girl with more money than brains (Sanders) and is about to tie the knot> However, he first has to dispose of his former girlfriend, Vi (Jeding). Unfortunately for Tom, he failed to realize that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whether she's alive or dead... and he soon finds himself haunted by Vi's floating head and other random detached body parts.

The "hero" of this film is perhaps the singularly most unlikable character I've ever been expected to feel sympathy for in a movie. Not only is Tom rotten to the core, but I get this child-molester vibe off him whenever he's around his fiance's little sister. (Of course, part of that is because he thinks she may know that he killed Vi and he's working hard to gain her trust, and eventually he tries to do the ultimate slimeball thing and kill the little kid, but there's still that vibe...)

The greatest problem with this film, and it's only partially because of its low budget, is the way things that are supposed to be scary--like when Vi's ghost manifests--are laughable. The overall flatness of the acting is also a crippling factor. Carlson does a good job as the ultimate scumbag, and little Susan Gordon gives a surprisingly good performance for a child actor... particularly when one considers that she probably got the part first and foremost by being the director's daughter.

The film does have some interesting visual flourishes, and there are several suspenseful scenes that take place in an old lighthouse. In fact, all the movies suspenseful scenes take place in the old lighthouse; whenever we get away from that location, things tend to drag a bit--except when Carlson is giving off "dirty old man" vibes around Gordon. The horror is strong at that point, whether the setting is the lighthouse or not.

The basic idea of this film--which crosses a film noir sort of attitude with a ghost story--is one that appeals to me. The execution here is sorely lacking, however.

Someone should ask Roman Polanski if he has seen this flick. I'm sure he'd have all kinds of sympathy for Tom if he did. He might even want to option a remake and relive the excitement of his youth by having Tom feed Sandy roofies and then rape her before deciding she knows too much and must die.

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