I continued my quest for cheesy entertainment with Tormented (1960), starring nobody you’ve ever heard of. I guess I should say nobody I’ve ever heard of. I don’t know who you may have heard of.
The movie doesn’t waste any time on back story, but from the first scene we gather that this jazz pianist had an affair with the singer in his band but dumped her for another woman. Later on, when we meet the fiance, we find she is the daughter of a rich man, but there is no indication that the pianist is a gold-digger. More likely he just follows the usual movie guy propensity for preferring the softer, more insipid choice.
The dumped singer’s name is Vi, which caused some confusion in the opening credits when Steven thought there was a character named Six (you know, roman numerals, VI). Vi meets a tragic end off the top of an old, abandoned lighthouse which the pianist apparently frequents. He is racked with guilt or perhaps worry that her dead body will wash up on the shore.
It is a perfect set-up for a psychological thriller: is there really a ghost or is his guilt making him see things that aren’t there? Unfortunately, the movie makers did not have anything that subtle in mind. This is definitely a ghost story and a pretty cheap one at that.
One could take the charitable view that special effects were not very advanced in 1960; it was hard to do a ghost story without that there CGI. I say hogwash. They just weren’t trying very hard. I point to The Haunting made in 1963 (NOT the ridiculous re-make), which manages to be extremely unsettling using noises, camera angles and acting. I don’t say this in a carping tone of voice, though, because the bad special effects gave us the best laugh of the evening. At one point, Vi’s disembodied head appears, taunting the pianist. In desperation, he grabs it, and instead of a double-exposure would-be creepy thing, it looks like a wig form from the make-up department. Vi keeps talking even after her voice is muffled when he wraps a piece of cloth around it.
There are a couple of good effects. Early on the pianist and his fiance are walking in the sand and a third pair of footprints appears alongside them. Later, some flowers wilt as an unseen Vi walks by them. By that time, though, I was still laughing about the wig form and had lost any inclination to feel unsettled.
The supporting cast is pretty ridiculous. The fiance has a kid sister who probably had a great stage mother to get a part in a movie. She is there so that a child can be in danger. A blind realtor shows up bearing flowers which she puts in a vase with no water. She’s there to tell the story of another ghost who, alas, never shows up. The fiance’s rich father is on hand to disapprove of her marriage to a jazz pianist. That was my biggest disappointment with the movie: with a jazz pianist as the main character, I had hoped to hear a lot more jazz music.
On the whole, it was enjoyable as a bad movie. And perfectly usable as a blog post. Today I’m off on more Mohawk Valley adventures, so it is quite possible that my Friday Post will not be Lame as usual. Stay tuned.