Friday, 31 October 2014

TORMENTED












d. Bert I. Gordon (1960)

Craggy middle aged Tom Stewart (craggy middle aged Richard Carlson) has it all: a beautiful young fiancĂ©e, a great career playing somewhat prosaic jazz piano, a cool pad, tight swimming trunks. The only insect in his unguent is Vi (Julie Reding), an old flame who loves him so much she’s prepared to wreck his life. Vi is pretty attractive in all sorts of ways (most of them sexual), and is quite obviously a bad lot as it's 1960 and her dress is so low cut that we can see her brassiere and several acres of her extensive bosom.  
They meet, as secret ex-lovers do, at the top of an abandoned lighthouse. It’s poorly maintained (bloody Council!), so a section of the guard rail gives way and leaves Vi hanging precariously over the raging sea. Stewart doesn’t kill her, but neither does he help her and so she falls screaming to her death: end of problem; start of story.

From here on in, despite being dead, Vi makes an awful nuisance of herself. Her ghostly footprints appear in the sand, bits of her jewellery keeping washing ashore, she covers her rivals wedding dress in seaweed and steals her engagement ring, and her disembodied head keeps appearing to Stewart to conduct increasingly bitter arguments with him. Some of these beyond the grave shenanigans are seen by others, some are not, so it’s hard to tell what is supernatural and what is psychological, whatever the difference is, although, either way, Stewart unravels pretty quickly.
In any event, by the end of the film an unhinged Stewart has killed a blackmailing beatnik (the great Joseph Turkel, one of Kubrick’s favourite actors) and is just about to murder a seven year old girl when Vi’s ghost swoops in and pushes him from the top of the lighthouse. The Council should have fixed that guard rail, or at least put some tape across the gap.

In a memorable coda, rescuers pull both Stewart's and Vi’s bodies from the sea and place them next to each other on the beach. Vi’s dead arm somehow flops onto Stewart’s corpse, revealing the stolen ring on her hand. It’s going to be a very long engagement.  

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