Tormented, 1960. 6/10

On a Pacific island, a love triangle plays out, although one of the women is dead. That’s Vi (Juli Reding), old flame of Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson); she falls to her death from an ominous lighthouse. He could’ve saved her, but didn’t. Meanwhile, he latches on to heiress Meg Hubbard (Lugene Sanders). Enter a blackmailer, beatnik hipster Nick (Joe Turkel); he knows that Tom is up to something (murder, daddy-o?) and shakes down Tom for $5k.

Even Megs’s eight year old sister Sandy (Susan Gordon) figures that Tom has killed Vi. With plenty of supernatural rigor, Vi keeps popping up in various incarnations: as footprints, strategically placed seaweed, lights blown out, with spooky music, voices, diaphranous bodily forms, even as a disembodied head.

The head deal is pretty bad; suffice it to say that a similar talking-dead-head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is much more horrific. Most of these manifestations are for Tom’s benefit only, but others can sometimes sense the poltergeist stuff (most notably in the wedding scene).

The plot begins just as Tom is throwing-over (pretty much literally) Vi for Meg, whom he’s about to marry. That’s good, as we don’t waste time transitioning from emptying out one relationship to filling in another. Another slick touch is that it’s sometimes hard to tell which scenes Tom imagines or dreams, and which ones ‘really’ occur.

Most of the action concerns the wedding plans for Tom and Meg, neatly interrupted by Vi’s uncalled-for ‘visits.’ Nick functions as a tangible reminder of Tom’s past; it might’ve been more interesting to expand his role so that he becomes as menancing as Vi. For example, since he’s the only one to have taken notice of Vi, and he suspects some mayhem related to her disappearance, why wouldn’t he juice up his demands on Tom by threatening to go to the cops?

It doesn’t make sense that no one else notices that she’s missing (from the mainland that is). Another strange thing is the relatively large role for Sandy. What’s the point of sticking her nose in half the scenes? Gordon’s a good actress, but the kid-sister deal really doesn’t add to the plot.

Sandy and Nick are worth watching; none of the others seem very memorable. Actually, Tom’s personality is intriguing. He’s definitely tormented; but, since he just let Vi fall in the first place, he deserves his fate. Though he makes a convincing victim, he’s otherwise so wooden that he might have splinters sticking out.

The lighthouse motif works well–it’s an inherently creepy, gothic setting, as a sort of miniature castle. The denouement is probably the best bit; I’m reminded of 1962’s Carnival Of Souls, a much more haunting film that also used a drowning death to fashion a ghost. In the latter film, the protagonist is a ghost–who doesn’t know it–which explains all the eerie happenings.

The endings of both movies are similar; with the dead protagonist fished out of the surf (Candace Hildegloss in Carnival of Souls, Richard Carlson here). In other words, perhaps Tom died when Vi did. That would enable Vi’s seeping out from the underworld; very much like the cadavarous creatures in Carnival Of Souls, who set out to claim Mary Henry for the dead. Vi’s and Tom’s bodies are pulled out together, suggesting that they died together.

That’s what’s great about a ghost story–we really don’t know who’s a ghost and who isn’t. That is to say, since a ghost is likely to have ghostly experiences, then those whom seem to be ‘real’ (Tom Stewart, Mary Henry) might not be; they belong to the other world, which is why they’re ‘tormented’ by it.

Nonetheless, Tormented gets a corpse-like 4.8 average rating from IMDb reviewers. I don’t think it’s quite that bad; it has an interesting premise, good pacing, and plenty of supernatural touches (Vi’s head could’ve done us better by decomposing or something). But there’s a lack of consistency among the cast, and a sand-dune sized plot hole–which Vi disappears into until the very end.

Well, Farmermouse thought that Sandy’s magic kit was cool, so he gives this six lighthouses. 6/10.

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