April 6, 2024

TORMENTED: A Little Film From Mr. B.I.G.

1960 / 74 min
Review by Mr. Paws😺

For most of his career, the late Bert I. Gordon certainly lived up to his initials. This B-movie auteur was best known for economically cranking out a variety of killer creature features that mostly played in drive-ins for the teen crowd. 

If you’re of a certain age, perhaps you recall such schlockly classics as Beginning of the End, Earth vs. the Spider and The Amazing Colossal Man…if not from the days of local late-night TV, then maybe the original Mystery Science Theater 3000, which featured quite a few of his flicks. Yours truly is old enough to recall spending his own allowance to catch one of Gordon’s last critterfests, 1976’s The Food of the Gods, in a theater.

Gordon sometimes dabbled in other genres, usually budget-conscious versions of bigger and better films that were popular at the time, but seldom straying too far from his horror roots. One such film is 1960’s Tormented, a surprisingly atmospheric little ghost story. I remember once having TCM on the TV as background noise when this came on. Despite the director’s dubious reputation, I found it engaging enough to drop what I was doing and see it through. 

Not that Tormented is some kind of lost classic. It’s still a cheap film…but a pretty well made cheap film - for Bert I. Gordon, anyway - with decent performances and a good story. Jazz musician Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson) is about to marry new girlfriend Meg (Lugene Sanders) in Cape Cod when old flame Vi (Juli Reding) shows up. Still in love with him, she begs Tom to come back to her, even threatening blackmail. 

IKEA has some weird-ass room decor.
While they’re arguing atop a local lighthouse, the railing breaks. Hanging on for dear life, Vi begs Tom for help. He refuses and she falls to her death into the sea. While initially reasoning that he didn’t actually kill her himself, Vi returns from beyond to haunt him, still determined to stop the wedding. Like The Tell-Tale Heart, visions of her disembodied appendages, or finding jewelry he once gave her, could be manifestations of his guilt. But either way, Tormented is a fun little ghost story that establishes a moody tone with its seaside locations and, considering the budget, not-half-bad special effects.

Of course, being the work of Bert I. Gordon means Tormented isn’t without its goofy aspects, which are amusingly exploited in an old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode included among this disc’s excellent batch of extras. Countering Joel and his robot friends’ merciless riffing are a few revealing bonus features that might have one appreciating what Gordon was always able to put together with very little money.


MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 VERSION - From 1992, featuring Joel, Crow & Tom Servo.

BERT I. GORDON: THE AMAZING COLOSSAL FILMMAKER - An 8 minute archival interview with the late director.

BIGGER THAN LIFE: BERT I. GORDON IN THE 1950’s and 1960’s - An excellent 40 minute appreciation by C. Courtney Joyner. The best of the new bonus features.

THE SPIRIT IS WILLING: CINEMAGIC AND SOCIAL DISCORD IN BERT I. GORDON’S TORMENTED - The Flying Maciste Brothers attach some seriously weighty themes to this little potboiler…kinda the antithesis of the MST3K episode.

FAMOUS GHOST STORIES - An unreleased TV pilot featuring Vincent Price, thought the episode itself is just an abridged version of Tormented.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Gary Rhodes and Larry Blamire.


SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes an essay by Tom Weaver, as well as an interview with Susan Gordon, Bert’s daughter who plays little andy Hubbard.

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