• Woman’s Torment, A

    Woman’s Torment, A
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 24th, 2017.
    Director: Roberta Findlay
    Cast: Jennifer Jordan, Jack Teague, Michael Gaunt, Marlene Willoughby, Crystal Synch, Jeffrey Hurst, Clea Carson, Tara Chung
    Year: 1977
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Roberta Findlay (credited here as Norman Walters) in 1976, A Woman’s Torment is as much a horror movie as it is a sex film, if not more so, and the results are pretty interesting.

    As the waves crash up on the shore of some barren beach and classical music swells up we cut to Estelle Vorel (Jennifer Jordan) in bed with her man Otis (Jack Teague). They've had sex but she can't come - rather than try and make up for it, he's rather indifferent to her needs and while he tries to console her, the tone in his voice is no less than condescending. They head off to a party and hang out with some friends, make some small talk at which point the guys hang out with the guys and complain about their wives and the women hang out with the woman and talk about their husbands. One of these other couples is Don Compton (Jeffrey Hurst) and his wife Frances (Crystal Sync). Karen (Tara Chung), Frances’ disturbed sister, lives with them and it’s not easy to keep the spark alive with her around. When they discuss having her committed and she overhears the conversation, things start to get tricky.

    At any rate, after the party the couples head back to their respective homes and they have sex but we know something is wrong when the action heads back to the cottage on the beach. Karen is there, and judging by the strange noises on the soundtrack there's something seriously wrong with her. She walks through the home slowly, voices calling to her in her head that only she can hear, strange voices telling her to do very, very bad things. She tries to wash the filth off of her and out of her by taking a shower but it's no good, they won't stop and she imagines a man with a stocking over his face slashing at her naked body. When a local handyman shows up and takes a shining to her, she seduces him. But after they make love her true nature comes out as she stabs him in the back, murdering him in cold blood. When a certain married man introduced earlier in the film finds himself crossing paths with Karen it all comes crashing down as we realize that she is very much a woman in torment indeed....

    An interesting blend of a Psycho inspired slasher with a hardcore sex film, A Woman’s Torment is actually a pretty excellent movie. Tara Chung steals the show as Karen, the woman with deep psychological problems who is very much the 'black widow' who does in every man who crosses her path. She gives an inspired performance, and we're actually able to believe that she is as messed up as the story would like us to think as she curls into the fetal position in the shower to avoid the voices she knows she shouldn't listen to. Seeing her masturbate with almost self-destructive glee after giving in to her bloodlust and returning to the shower to clean herself off solidifies her state for us. We know she's completely off her rocker, Tara Chung plays this role really well.

    The cinematography is lush and appropriately melodramatic, focusing as much on the waves crashing against the shore and the loneliness of the location as on the sex, though it doesn't skimp there either. As with Findlay’s 1981 film The Tiffany Minx, the film is an interesting and genuinely engrossing thriller as much as it is a porno film. Be that because it was directed by a woman and therefore shot with a different sexual being behind the camera than your average male porn peddler or be it because Findlay wanted to make a better quality movie, it is nevertheless a very well made picture. The performances are strong all around, music (from Walter Sear) is used well, the camerawork is solid, the locations are effective and most importantly the story is ripe with tension, intrigue, drama and, of course, sex.

    It’s also worth noting that this release includes both the X-rated and soft cuts of the film. The ‘soft’ cut actually runs a bit longer at 1:27:08 compared to the hardcore version clocking in at 1:25:06. So this isn’t just a matter of the soft cut removing the hardcore footage, there’s a fair bit of alternate footage included in here making it an interesting variant and one well worth including on this release.


    A Woman’s Torment arrives on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Vinegar Syndrome in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. The film was previously released by Alpha Blue Archives as part of their 70’s Cult Porn Director series and, maybe not so surprisingly, that older disc looks awful compared to this new Blu-ray. Detail here is very strong and there are no noticeable compression artifacts to note. There is some minor print damage here and there and the occasional scratch that pops into the frame but by and large the presentation is very clean. There’s good texture and depth throughout and we get really good color reproduction here as well.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There’s some occasional hiss here and there but for the most part the track is clean and well balanced. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the score sounds surprisingly good.

    Extras for this release start off with a commentary track featuring Roberta Findlay over the ‘soft’ cut of the film. Moderated by Casey Scott, this is a reasonably scene specific talk that covers a lot of ground. Findlay notes right away that those are her arms that we see in the opening scene before then going on to talk about the history of DFS Enterprises, which seems like it could be a great subject for a documentary or a book all on its own. Findlay’s a good storyteller, talking about Jordan’s propensity for drinking Jack Daniels, what was involved in the beach shoot (which was the first part to be shot) and who ran off with a gaffer, differences between the New York and California film scenes of the time, other adult pictures that she was involved with over the years (some of which were shot in her own apartment) and why different lenses were used for different shots. She also talks about some of the camerawork featured in the picture, her thoughts on various adult stars like Terri Hall, Michael Gaunt’s work in the film and how he came to be involved in the picture, where Findlay got the idea for the film (she didn’t just direct it but also wrote it, edited it, shot it and co-produced it), the score used in the film, her trait as an ‘editing freak’ and how she obsessed over matching shots, what it was like shooting on Fire Island in the seventies and how isolated it was at the time and the importance of being able to lie to your cast while directing them! Great stuff, this is a genuinely interesting track that’s delivered with a good sense of humor that covers a lot of ground.

    Also included on the disc is a twenty-two minute long Q&A that was shot in 2017 in New York City at the Quad Cinema Roberta Findlay and Scott. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it’s a kick seeing Findlay, looking resplendent in some giant black sunglasses, telling stories from the shoot in her seriously candid style. She again talks about the locations, some of the cast members she collaborated with during this period, the cinematography and Findlay’s penchant for ‘making a good frame.’ She also talks about the film’s theatrical run and how it didn’t play everywhere as it ‘wasn’t much of an erotic film’ despite the fact that it did get good reviews.

    Also included on the disc is a sixteen minute long video interview with Michael Gaunt (a.k.a. Michael Dattorre) wherein he speaks about getting the part of the electrical line man in the green hard hat in the picture from Dorothy Palmer, an agent in the day. He also talks about his thoughts on working with Findlay and her relationship with Walter Sear, what it was like working on set, getting to the locations used in the film and running out of gas on the way, how strict (or not strict) the shoot was in regards to sticking to the script, how Sear had a propensity to always make it look like what he was doing was incredibly difficult and Findlay’s directing style. He also discusses smoking weed on set, how much fun he had back in the day, how he got along with some of the other cast members involved in the shoot and more.

    Again, as this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included inside the clear Blu-ray sized keepcase alongside some slick reversible cover artwork.

    The Final Word:

    A Woman’s Torment isn’t even close to the sexist adult film you’re ever going to see but it is a genuinely compelling psychological thriller with some fine performances, great location photography and a few nice twists. The fact that it’s got hardcore sex in it is almost an afterthought. Regardless, Vinegar Syndrome has gone all out on this release, including two cuts of the film in excellent shape and a host of other extras highlighted by a great commentary track. A very impressive release for a seriously underappreciate picture!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Sounds good, just ordered.
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      This is a great twisted film. I saw this back years ago on vhs. Glad to see that there also is an alternate cut included. I will have to grab this when I get the money. Thanks for the post. Another one I recommend by Findlay is Mystique with a script by the late great Roger Watkins. Thanks for post.