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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
"You have seen torture. Now I'm gonna show you death."
DVD ReviewThe anthology film has never been done better than 1982's Creepshow. While there have been countless, inferior imitators, that anthology film led many people to forget that such projects have been around for decades. One of the earlier examples of this is 1967's Torture Garden. This is the product of producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who made a few films at that time to compete with the Hammer horror craze. Most of these paled in comparison to the Hammer productions, but Torture Garden actually has some good qualities that allow it to rank at least somewhat near those classic films.
Torture Garden definitely has a strong cast going for it, led by Jack Palance and Burgess Meredith. The latter plays Dr. Diablo, the proprietor of a fairground who also runs an elaborate torture exhibit. Diablo's attraction is much more than it seems, though, as he brings various people into a back room, where there are hypnotized and see unsettling future events unfold in front of them. These events are presented as four separate stories wrapped around the centerpiece with Dr. Diablo.
The first involves Colin Williams (Michael Bryant), who lets his uncle (Maurice Denham) die so he can inherit his fortune. What Colin doesn't suspect is that a powerful cat knows what he's done and wants revenge. Next, we find actress Carla Hayes (Beverly Adams) and her new beau, Paul (Robert Hutton), who has a secret age-defying technique that terrifies her. Then, we learn of Dorothy Endicott (Barbara Ewing), who is trying to keep her fiancée, Storm (John Phillips) away from his mother and a powerful piano. The final storyline involves Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance) a man who adores Poe, and will do anything to acquire a collection from his rival, Lancelot Canning (Peter Cushing). Little does he know that Lancelot and the late Poe have a special connection.
All of these separate stories are engaging, but the Palance/Cushing tale is the reason to see Torture Garden. These are two of the all-time best character actors, and they are at the top of their games here. Anything involving Edgar Allen Poe is interesting, let alone scary, and that's surely the case with this portion of the film. The only disappointing aspect of this story is how short it is. The main plotline could have easily been drawn out a bit more, and here, seemingly due to time constraints, things go by very fast and we're left wanting more.
The rest of the stories are effective also, with more great performances from a who's who of '60s character actors, but the man to watch is Burgess Meredith. His work as Dr. Diablo is just as campy as it is creepy, but the bottom line is that it's fun, and Meredith seems to be having a blast with this demented guy. This character could have ground Torture Garden to a halt every time he appears between stories, but Meredith took it upon himself to make these transitions as smooth and fun as possible. Meredith will always be remembered as The Penguin in the Batman TV series and as Mickey in Rocky, but his turn in Torture Garden deserves recognition too.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a nice surprise. While it still has a dated overall look, it appears to benefit from some clean-up work that has eliminated much of the dirt and debris from the source material. The overall image is slightly soft, but the color scheme is nicely rendered, as there isn't any bleeding or other problems in this department.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track isn't anything special, but is problem-free. Everything basically stays up front, but the key to the film is the dialogue and that is always crystal clear and never distorted.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Frankenfish, Devour, Vampires: The Turning, Kingdom Hospital
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: The only extras are previews for other DVD releases.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsTorture Garden is a fun picture in the same vein as the Hammer pictures. Powered by some fine acting, the film makes its DVD debut from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment via a bare bones disc that does feature solid audio and video, especially considering its age.
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