Horrorfest 2017 Presents: The Black Torment (1964, Robert Hartford -Davis )


Made during the height of Hammer Studios The Black Torment feels like a lost film from them, and it has some of the grace notes of Hammer films. One thing I enjoy about the 1960s is the number of period horror films, many of them well done and entertaining. The Black Torment has ghosts, a sword fight, class issues and some good creepy scenes. The main cast is full of people I did not recognize, yet I felt that added a degree of intrigue to the movie, since I would not be able to guess what happened next.

One of the film’s highlights is Sir Richard Fordyke (John Turner) riding after a ghost! Who then manages to chase after him, in eerie and suspenseful fashion. The movie’s gothic horror aspects are its strongest features, and overcome some weak melodrama early on in the film. Heather Sears as Lady Elizabeth is excellently cast as Richard’s wife, and she more than holds her own in the film.

Plus there is a staircase scene that reminded me of The Shining, which makes me wonder if Stanley Kubrick got the inspiration for one of his film’s most infamous moments from The Black Torment. Every Horrorfest I uncover a hidden old gem, and I eagerly recommend this film to everyone looking for solid entertainment.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Phantom of the Opera (1962, Terence Fisher)


Unlike its predecessors, Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is more of a modern style take on the original 1925 classic, which starred Lon Chaney. In this remake Herbert Lom tackles the role, and gives it style, grace, and a tragic flare that was missing from the original film. In fact despite not being as good as the 1925 version one thing I like about the 1962 adaption is that it is more in tune with the book. The Phantom was not a monster at first, but in the end was turned into one because of circumstance-in this case, it is because the Phantom was robbed of his works by an arrogant and selfish individual, leading to him turning into a horribly disfigured man. Also I was a bit reminded of the 2004 musical, especially since there are actually musical numbers in this movie and much of the film is as much a drama as it is a horror movie.

The cast is pretty good here-Hammer Studios regular Michael Gough is wonderfully evil and sinister, Edward de Souza plays a solid and likable hero, and Heather Sears is rather good while doing the thankless job of being the pretty damsel who ends up the object of the Phantom’s desire. Much like Fisher’s other Hammer films the visuals here are stunning, and the set designs are remarkable. Even though it lacks the 1925 version’s high level of creepiness, and Lom unfortunately doesn’t measure up to Lon Chaney’s brilliant and freaky Phantom, who he completely made his own, this is a rather solid remake. Some of Hammer Studio’s most notable efforts included non-franchise movies such as this one, and its a shame that this movie failed at the box office. At least its developed a cult following since.

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