The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism

August 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm (7 Heads, Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism) (, , , )

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism – 1967 – Germany

From the opening in which a Theremin warbles as a warlock dons the infamous spiked Inquisition mask (see Mario Bava’s Black Sunday), I decided to like this flick. A German production owing to Hammer, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (a.k.a. a dozen other titles), features Christopher Lee (who isn’t given much to do) and all the anachronistic period costumes you’d expect. Apparently based on The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe, Dr. Sadism is as true to source as Roger Corman’s The Raven with all the wizards.

Actually, there’s no Dr. Sadism in the flick. Presumably this is a homage/rip-off of 1959’s The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus/Eyes Without a Face. But there is Count Regula, a warlock drawn and quartered in the first (intense) scene who soon rises from the dead in pale makeup. Inviting his killers’ descendants to his castle, he proceeds to torture them in intriguing ways including a pit with pendulum.

Despite talkiness and a throwaway plot, Dr. Sadism chills with dreamy, dreadful atmosphere—utterly immersive. During the carriage ride to Regula’s castle through bleakly scenic countryside, things get interesting. As a vibrant hand-painted sunset burns the sky, the carriage rolls into a dark, misty, blue-green, forest where iridescently pale corpses are embedded in the trees, their arms and legs growing out the trunks and limbs. This will disturb me forever.

Through the forest and a decrepit graveyard, the carriage reaches the castle. Inside, Hieronymus Bosch-like paintings and devilish sculptures decorate the skull-studded walls. A creepy touch is the menagerie of roaming animal extras: rats, lizards, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and flesh-picking vultures. Not to mention all the torture devices. Besides the pendulum, a favorite is one in which a crucified person and smashed onto a bed of spikes.

Dr. Sadism is an exercise in grisly horrific imagery, sights set on a genre audience. Bits ripped from the Italian horror catalog (including a Barbara Steele-esque lady lead) mingle with Hammer majesty. Unoriginal and lacking the subtlety and spooky beauty of the gothic masterpieces (i.e. Black Sunday), Dr. Sadism still haunts with atmosphere just short of Europe’s best and gruesomeness surpassing them.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Fans of Euro gothic gore tune in, but prepare for déjà vu.

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