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The Black Torment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Black Torment
The Black Torment.jpg
British original poster
Directed byRobert Hartford-Davis
Written byDerek Ford
Donald Ford
Produced byTony Tenser
Michael Klinger
StarringJohn Turner
Heather Sears
Ann Lynn
CinematographyPeter Newbrook
Edited byAlastair McIntyre
Music byRobert Richards
Production
company
Compton Films
Release date
  • 20 October 1964 (1964-10-20)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

The Black Torment (aka Estate of Insanity) is a 1964 British gothic horror film directed by Robert Hartford-Davis and starring John Turner, Heather Sears and Ann Lynn. The film is set in 18th-century Devon and was scripted by brothers Donald and Derek Ford. In terms of plot and setting it shares many similarities with the Hammer Horror productions of the 1960s, but was made by a smaller studio, Compton Films (see Tony Tenser). The Ford brothers later scripted Corruption (1968), also directed by Robert Hartford-Davis.

Plot

The film opens with Lucy Judd, a young woman, running in panic through a nocturnal wood. She is tracked down and cornered by a figure in black who puts his hands around her throat.

The scene then switches to daytime and a horse-drawn carriage containing Sir Richard Fordyke and his new bride Elizabeth, who is being brought from London to meet her new father-in-law for the first time. Elizabeth is nervous and anxious, hoping to make a good impression but worried that she will not pass muster. Sir Richard assures her that his father will love her just as he does, but warns her that his father is "a shadow of the man he once was", having been crippled by a stroke and now able only to communicate by sign language. A complicating factor is that the only person who can interpret his signing is the devoted Diane, sister to Sir Richard's first wife Anne who died by her own hand four years previously after becoming deranged over her inability to bear a child.

On arrival in his home village, Sir Richard, having expected a warm welcome after his absence and marriage, finds himself treated with rudeness and barely disguised suspicion by his tenants, such as Black John, the local blacksmith. His coachman Tom asks a villager the reason for the sudden hostility towards his previously well-liked master and is told that shocking events have been taking place, culminating in the rape and murder of Lucy who, before she died, screamed out Sir Richard's name. Sir Richard and Elizabeth arrival at Fordyke Hall is met by an oddly stiff and formal welcome from the staff and Diane. When challenged, steward Seymour tells Sir Richard of wild rumours circulating in the village about Lucy's last words. Sir Richard points out that he was provably in London when the attack happened, but Seymour states that logic cannot assuage the villagers' primitive suspicions and talk of witchcraft, particularly since enquiries have established there were no strangers in the vicinity at the time.

Events quickly take a sinister turn as a copy of Anne's suicide note is anonymously delivered to Elizabeth. The window from which Anne jumped becomes mysteriously unbolted at night. Sir Richard sees what he believes to be the ghost of his dead wife in the garden. Meanwhile, after enjoying an illicit nocturnal frolic in a barn with her fiancee, Mary, one of the housemaids, is strangled in a barn with her fiancee, like Lucy (but not raped). A stablehand tells Sir Richard that one of his horses is being taken out and ridden at night by an unknown woman, and a saddle inscribed with Anne's name is delivered. The saddler insists that Sir Richard ordered it in person, despite Sir Richard's insistence that he has been nowhere near the village for three months. Colonel Wentworth informs Sir Richard that there are numerous reports of his having been seen riding around the neighbourhood at night during his supposed absence in London, pursued by Anne who keeps shouting the word "murderer". Those who have seen the spectacle are speaking of witchcraft and devilry.

Unable to explain the strange goings-on, Sir Richard doubts his sanity, and his marriage comes under strain as Elizabeth herself struggles to make sense of events. When Sir Richard again sees the ghost in the garden at night, he mounts his horse and gives chase, only to find himself being pursued on horseback by a white-clad Anne. He is apprehended by the local militia but is let go. He returns to Fordyke Hall, where Elizabeth insists he left her only moments before. Believing she too has turned against him and is now somehow involved in the plot to incriminate him or drive him mad, he attempts to strangle her, managing to stop himself from killing her just in time. Ultimately, he manages to uncover the real culprits and their motives but cannot prevent another murder from being committed. He has to take part in a vicious swordfight before he can reveal the truth.

Cast

Critical Reception

Despite a handsomely mounted production with fine costumes and a quality cast, the film has largely been considered an inferior example of its kind by authors of movie guides. For instance, the entry on it in Horror: The Aurum Film Encyclopedia reads, in part: "This is a crude British attempt to match the Italian horror movies of the period. The sloppily constructed plot is set in 1780 (etc)...The film's tone is set in a pre-credit sequence showing a young woman (Ronay) running through the woods trying to escape a murderous rapist. The cutting is predictable, the sound grossly over-emphatic, the colour ugly and the tension non-existent. Sears, so effective in Fisher's The Phantom of the Opera, is miscast as Turner's new bride.".[1] John Stanley writes that the cast "work to make all this unbelievable stuff believable.".[2]

References

  1. ^ Phil Hardy, ed. Horror: The Aurum Film Encyclopedia London: Aurum Press, 1993; revised, 1995, p.158
  2. ^ John Stanley. Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again. Pacifica CA: Creatures at Large Press, 1994 (4th revised ed), p. 46

External links

This page was last edited on 21 September 2022, at 16:46
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