Tormented

April 26, 2016 at 12:31 am (7 Heads, Tormented) (, , , , )

Tormented – 1960 – United States

A famous jazz pianist lives in a Cape Cod island community and is engaged to an attractive wealthy woman. The pianist’s obsessed ex-girlfriend tries to blackmail him into running away with her. They argue atop a condemned lighthouse. A railing breaks and the ex-girlfriend loses her footing. The pianist has the opportunity to save her but lets her fall. She plunges to her death in the rocky ocean.

The pianist prepares for his wedding but is haunted by his ex-girlfriend’s ghost. Her apparition taunts him, steals his wedding ring, and destroys his fiancées dress. The pianist is also blackmailed by a boat captain who witnessed the ex-girlfriend’s death. The pianist’s sanity unravels. He kills the boat captain and almost kills his preteen sister-in-law when she witnesses the murder. The film’s climax takes place atop the fateful lighthouse. The pianist is attacked by the ghost and falls in the ocean. A diver finds the bodies of the pianist and his ex-girlfriend and drags them ashore. In the final shot, the two corpses lay in an embrace.

Tormented is an evocative melodrama with believable characters and good acting. The pianist tries to rationalize his guilt. Although he did not save his ex-girlfriend, he did not actually kill her either. The ghost of his ex-girlfriend is crazy and shameless. She has nothing to lose and cruelly hounds the pianist. The supporting characters are also memorable. The pianist’s naive fiancée (who is much younger than him) struggles to make sense of the pianist’s erratic behavior. Her eight year old sister has a crush on the pianist. After seeing him commit murder, she faces a moral dilemma. The jive talking beatnik boat captain is also remarkable.

Tormented was produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon. Considering Gordon’s background as an effects artist, Tormented has plentiful and impressive effects for such a low key supernatural story. Ghostly apparitions appear, including disembodied heads and hands. The most striking effect happens during the pianist’s wedding. When the priest says “speak now or forever hold your peace”, the church door bursts open to emit a cold wind. Bouquets of flowers die one by one as the invisible ghost approaches the altar.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Young ladies, this is why your dad doesn’t want you to marry a musician.

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