Monday, January 10, 2011

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

There's just something about seeing Christopher Lee in a horror movie that appeals to me. The movie can be great ("The Wicker Man", "The Devil Rides Out"), good ("Dracula Has Risen From the Grave", "The House that Dripped Blood"), terrible (the recent "Season of the Witch") and the bad but unbelievable ("Howling II"), if he's in it, I'll most likely watch it. Thankfully, the Greek picture "The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism" fits in the good category.

Lee plays Count Regula (har har), who is killed early on for killing twelve virgin women and using their blood to try and become immortal, and vows revenge on those responsible. Thirty five years later, the decedents of those responsible just happen to get an invite to the castle that once belonged to the count. It turns out that they've been invited by Anatol (Carl Lange), who wants to revive the count.

"The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism" is a great looking and all around atmospheric tale of Gothic horror that doesn't bend many rules, but proves to be some fine entertainment. Much of it plays like a mix of Mario Bava and the Edgar Allan Poe films of Roger Corman (indeed, the film is an extremely loose adaptation of "The Pit and the Pendulum"), with enough garish colors, medieval torture devices and nefarious plots to make fans of these kinds of movies happy. It also makes great use of paintings, with the images of Hieronymus Bosch and surreal, almost Salvador Dali like works filling the Count's castle. Then there's Lee himself. While he's only there for the beginning and the films third act, He makes the most of his presence, delivering the kind of classy but ghoulish performance that he's known for, and it's great to see him do his thing, no matter how long he's there.

If there are any problems, it's that our heroes aren't all that interesting. Les Barker is just boring as the man Roger Mont Elise, sleepwalking through his role without bothering to eve try and make some sort of impact, while Karin Dor Baroness Lilian Brabon as just feels underwritten. I know, she's the thirteenth victim that escaped, but that's all we know. She and Elise are just connected through relation to the people Regula wants payback on. There's nothing else to them, so it's hard to care too much about their fates.

Still, "Torture Chamber" makes for a fine little gem that's not quite a diamond in the rough, but it certainly worth watching, especially for fans of Gothic horror. After days of bad to mediocre movies, it was just what the doctor ordered for me.

Rating: 7.5/10

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