Black Torment
Redemption Films // Unrated // $19.95 // April 29, 2014
Review by Jeremy Biltz | posted April 18, 2014
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie:
There's nothing quite like a good gothic movie, with its eerie atmosphere, lush sets, hints of melodrama and scandal. Hammer was the exemplar as far as studios that put this out, but other folks did too. One slightly less well known example, re-released by Redemption, is The Black Torment, directed by Robert Hartford-Davis.

The film starts off in high gear, with a young woman running through the woods in terror, pursued by a murky figure. It turns out later that she was raped and murdered, and called out a name before she died. That name was Richard Fordyke (John Turner), though he claims he was days away from the family estate, in London, with his new bride Elizabeth (Heather Sears) at the time of the killing. Nevertheless, when he returns a few weeks after the death, the locals are very suspicious of him.

Richards's father, Sir Giles (Joseph Tomelty), has suffered a stroke and cannot speak except via sign language. He is cared for by Diane (Ann Lynn), the sister of Richard's late wife. The estate is in a bit of a tense mood because of the suspicions leveled against the returning son, and things aren't helped by the mysterious noises and goings on in the house, nor by Richard repeatedly seeing a vision of his late wife. The numerous reports of Richard being seen in the area, at the time when he was supposedly in London, cause even his devoted wife to wonder, and Richard to question his own sanity.

The storyline and interpersonal dynamics work really well here. At no point does the audience lose interest or look at their watches. There's always something going on to catch the attention. John Turner does an excellent job, and he is quite likeable, even though he may be a deranged killer. His charisma shows through. Heather Sears is also very empathetic and effective as his beleaguered wife. In fact, there really isn't a bad performance to be seen. The violence is more implied than shown, and not very grisly, and there are some not so great effects from time to time, but that hardly matters. And Patrick Troughton has a quick cameo, so you can't go wrong there.

The film is visually stylish, thrilling, and has a really excellent orchestral score. The mood is set perfectly, and the story unfolds relatively logically. Most of all, it's fun to watch. It's a treat to see this kind of film, which isn't made very much anymore. Kudos to Redemption for bringing it back. Highly recommended.

The DVD

Video:
Video is 1.66:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. There are some scratches and grain from time to time, but the colors are rich, though it is a muted palette appropriate to the subject matter. For a film of this age (from 1964) it looks as expected.

Sound:
Audio is Dolby 2 channel, and does the job without frills. Dialogue is always easily understood, and no significant hiss or other problem can be heard. No subtitles or alternate audio tracks are included.

Extras:
The only extra included is an interview with director Robert Hartford-Davis from 1968. It runs to thirteen minutes, and is unedited, with line flubs from the interviewer intact, but it is very interesting. Hartford-Davis discusses his philosophy of film, and his commitment to making inexpensive and profitable movies.

Final Thoughts:
The Black Torment is a very enjoyable gothic thriller, of a kind that is rarely produced these days. It's similar to a lot of fare that was put out by Hammer and others, but it doesn't feel derivative. It's got sword fights, chases on horseback, family scandals, suicide, murder, everything you could want in this type of movie. Most important, it's tightly plotted and well performed, and delivers a quality experience. Check it out.



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