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The Black Torment (1964)

An enjoyably thigh-slapping exercise in Regency horror, with Heather Sears sewn into low-cut costumes as the innocent young bride who marries a mysterious aristocrat (John Turner) and fears that she is going mad as her nights are disturbed by sundry manifestations of apparent ghostliness. Turner is a brooding Rochester-type in a Satanic beard, who is suspected of withcraft and of absuing and killing a series of village maidens. Sears worries that a hanging woman who shows up in the gardens at the most inconvenient times is the ghost of Turner's mysteriously dead first wife. It turns out that it's all down to the slobbering mad twin kept locked up in the attic, but sometimes let out by villainous cousin Peter Arne to blacken the hero's name. It mixes trad gothic corridor-wandering and curtain-fluttering with slasher-style assaults on the comely likes of Edina Ronay and a certain amount of swashbuckling swordplay. Sears and Turner are a couple of stiffs in starched outfits, but director Robert Hartford-Davis was smart enough to engage a group of glowering and eccentric character actors -- Francis DeWolff, Patrick Troughton, Joseph Tomelty, Raymond Huntley -- to be sinister or genial as servants, suspects and yokels.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published On: the BBC Films website.


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