Torture Garden (1967)

Torture Garden (1967)

Do You Dare See What Dr. Diabolo Sees?

A special sideshow torture exhibit has the power, according to the showman Dr Diablo, to warn people of the evil in their futures. Five sceptical punters decide to try it and find out what the future holds for them, each one hiding greed or violence within themselves.


Another one of Amicus’ horror anthologies from back in the heyday of British horror, Torture Garden is probably one of the weakest on the bunch. As usual there are a number of smaller stories with a themed plot to link them all together and there are too many poor individual entries to make it work. The linking story isn’t too bad though. Here it’s the fortune-telling mannequin in Dr Diablo’s sideshow but as per usual, the story comes full circle towards the end to put a little spin on what you think has happened. You can see it a mile away (Diablo is another name for what?) but at least Burgess Meredith has some fun in the role of the showman. You can just imagine him quacking and saying that he was going to destroy Batman when he has a Penguin-like suit on. Fortunately for the film he doesn’t.

The first story, Enoch, about a witch’s cat who feeds on people’s heads starts off silly but actually works, especially towards the end when no one will believe that a cat would do it. Making good use of dingy basements, creaky barns and with a dark streak a mile long, the story never fails to convince you that this is a nasty kitty. I mean feeding on heads is classic horror material, even if it is by a cat! Just when you think the whole episode is over and Michael Bryant’s character has been locked up and sent away for his psychological problems, along comes a nice twist ending which rounds it all off nicely. The film goes downhill pretty quickly after this entry though.

The second story called Terror Over Hollywood is rubbish and possibly the worst segment Amicus ever did. It’s about a wannabe actress who will do anything to get into the movies and make a career in Hollywood, including sabotaging a friend’s dinner date with a producer. She then enters in Hollywood’s inner circle and uncovers a shocking secret about how the biggest stars have managed to retain their youthful looks throughout the years. This episode is pathetic. It wouldn’t scare a three year old. It’s a nice idea but not for a horror film. The sets look cheap and I don’t think anyone would be so gullible as to believe that this story is taking place in America.

Mr Steinway, the next story, is about a protective piano which is inhabited by the spirit of it’s pianist’s deceased mother and refuses to let anyone come between him and his natural talent. So when an admirer falls in love with him, the piano takes it upon itself to stop it. If you think it sounds bad then wait until you see the piano ‘moving’ around towards the end, attempting to push an unlucky young woman out of a window whilst playing the funeral march! The material doesn’t warrant as much time as the story is given and the silliness of a killer piano is prolonged when it should never have been filmed in the first place. Freddie Francis gives us some close-ups of the piano, with its keys bearing like teeth ready to chomp down on a victim. But there’s no sense of tongue-in-cheek and the seriousness of this segment is what kills it.

The final story, The Man Who Collected Poe, is arguably the best but mainly because of it’s strong casting. Jack Palance is great as the nerdy and eccentric collector of all things Edgar Allan Poe and is fascinated by his work and his dabbles into the occult. He meets Peter Cushing’s collector who has the world’s greatest collection of Poe items including many unpublished works. Upon further examination, it seems that Poe has been writing from beyond the grave. Or is he really dead? It may be a little confusing at times but the two principle actors in the segment really give it their all. This last story also leads perfectly into the final part of the wraparound story and brings the film full circle.


Torture Garden comes off as a pale follow-up to the decent Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. The two middle stories really drag on and it’s only the final one which really manages to capture the imagination and the essence of what the link story was trying to achieve in the first place. Cats feeding on heads. Robot actors. Killer pianos. Not exactly things to get worked up over are they?





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