• Black Torment



    Released by: Redemption Films/Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 29th, 2014.
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
    Cast: John Turner, Heather Sears, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne, Edina Ronay
    Year: 1961
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, 1961’s Black Torment owes much to the more popular Hammer gothics popular around the time it was made, though it's not quite as entertaining or as interesting of most of that studio's similarly themed output. The film follows Sir Richard Fordyce (John Turner), an eighteenth century aristocratic type who has just finished up his honeymoon and returned to the manor where his family has lived for years. Accompanied by his lovely bride, Elizabeth (Heather Sears), the pair seems happy enough to be back and just as happy is Sir Richard's aged father, stuck in a wheelchair and unable to talk after a nasty stroke.

    Richard's got an odd past, however. His first wife Anne committed suicide by jumping out a window to her death. Now she's started reappearing just in time to accuse Richard of murdering a young woman, an incident which occurred, very conveniently, around the time of his arrival. Many of the local villagers see this charge as justified given that he was supposedly seen at the scene of the crime. Anne's sister, Diane (Ann Lynn), and her cousin, Seymour (Peter Arne), also live in the manor and they may know more about the strange occurrences and ghostly manifestations taking place than people might seem to realize…

    Featuring an interesting cast of British horror regulars, Black Torment is a very nicely shot film with some great camera work, stylish cinematography and nifty spooky sets and locations which are put to very good use. There's a lot of eerie shadows here, giving the old manor a nice atmosphere and a macabre tone that works in the film's favor. Unfortunately, the film itself is pretty slow. It does start off strongly with the rather vicious murder of a beautiful young woman out in the woods and it builds nicely to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, but most of what happens in between the two bookends moves along at a snail's pace.

    That said, the picture is worth seeing and the good does marginally outweigh the bad. The production values are stronger than you'd probably imagine for an older low budget genre film. Hartford-Davis, who also served as producer alongside Tony Tenser (who would inevitably go on to start Tigon where he'd have a much farther reaching influence), uses his resources well. The sets, costumes and tone of the picture all feel accurate enough, though the heavy melodrama and soap opera quality dialogue can get a bit tedious in spots.

    All in all, not a bad effort and a reasonably decent way to kill an hour and a half, but far from the unsung classic that some have made it out to be. The story does manage to mingle the natural and supernatural in interesting ways and the more horrific aspects of the film are handled very nicely. It borrows a bit too much from Hitchcock's Rebecca and for that reason it'll likely be more predictable than viewers would probably hope.

    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Black Torment has been released on DVD three times, first in 2005 through Redemption and Image in an open matte fullframe transfer then again in 2009 through Redemption in an improved open matte fullframe transfer and now through Redemption and Kino in 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen, an aspect ratio that does a considerably better of tightening up the camerawork and enhancing the framing. Taken from 35mm elements, it’s quite a nice improvement over the earlier discs (it would have looked great on Blu-ray… that didn’t happen) with better colors, stronger black levels and a stronger, crisper more detailed image.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack has a bit of background hiss in a couple of spots but is otherwise nice and clear. The score sounds fine and there aren't any problems with distortion. The levels are properly balanced and you won't have any problems following the dialogue at all. It’s a clean track, it sounds quite good.

    The key extra on this disc is a vintage 1968 filmed interview with director Robert Hartford-Davis conducted by Bernard Braden. It's a nice, informal piece that lets the director talk pretty much exclusively about the business of filmmaking rather than any actual specific productions. Regardless, it's cool to see Hartford-Davis here and this is a welcome, if minor, snapshot of the British film industry of the day. This was included on previous DVD releases as well. Outside of that, we get static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Black Torment is a nice looking film with some interesting ideas. It’s slow, but if you don’t mind that it’s fairly rewarding. The new DVD release from Redemption offers up a nice transfer and carries over the interview with the director from past releases.





















    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      This isn't a bad little film. I've got the UK Odeon DVD, which is presented open-matte. I think the letterboxing of the US DVDs probably gives the compositions a more claustrophobic feeling. I'll most definitely upgrade at some point, probably to the impending UK Blu (I assume this is still on schedule?) over this US DVD release, however.
    1. fatboyslim142's Avatar
      fatboyslim142 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
      This isn't a bad little film. I've got the UK Odeon DVD, which is presented open-matte. I think the letterboxing of the US DVDs probably gives the compositions a more claustrophobic feeling. I'll most definitely upgrade at some point, probably to the impending UK Blu (I assume this is still on schedule?) over this US DVD release, however.
      Yes it is.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by fatboyslim142 View Post
      Yes it is.
      Thought so Couldn't find the listing on Amazon when I checked earlier and was worried it had been cancelled.