30 August 2014

The Black Torment (1964)
85 min.
Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis.
With Heather Sears, John Turner, Ann Lyn, Peter Arne, Norman Bird, Raymond Huntley, Annette Whiteley, Francis De Wolff, and Joseph Tomelty.
Jose Cruz

An exemplary British terror.

Upon returning home with his new bride in tow, Sir Richard Fordyke (Turner) is met with a most unconventional homecoming: news that a young local girl was found sexually assaulted and murdered on his property during his absence.

And although the lord has an obvious alibi, it doesnít keep the villagers from suspecting him of foul play.

Not only that, but an escalating series of strange events begins to plague everyone at the manor. Lady Fordyke (Sears) receives a cryptic message alluding to Richardís previous wife who had committed suicide. Richard himself starts to see a figure in white strolling on the grounds at night.

Is this the doing of some dark agency, or are the powers of the supernatural at work?

Whatever this menacing force might be, it isnít afraid to take some lives as it sees fit!

The Black Torment is a wonderfully engaging little play that has exquisite shocks and an intelligent script working in its favor. The film is particularly successful at never showing its hand; right up until the tense climax, the viewer can never be certain of just what is plaguing our heroes before it shows its true face.

Turner is great as the anguished lead. He has a meat-and-potatoes approach to his character thatís invigorating to watch, and his robustness is given a nice showcase when he gets to engage in a full-on sword fight.

Some of the (many) highlights: Richardís pursuit of the ghostly maiden on horseback; the discovery of a hanging corpse in the mansion; a fantastic shock reveal that occurs during one of Richardís nightmare visions.

A personal favorite: after Lady Elizabeth has bade farewell to her husband as he rides off in a carriage, she walks back into the houseÖ only to hear Richard carrying on a conversation in the next room!

Bona fide proof that Britain had more to offer than the oeuvre of Hammer Studios, The Black Torment is an under-seen gem ripe for reappraisal.

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