Once more it’s back into the Amicus Productions catalog for another anthology film. We’re treated to some familiar names and faces when we enter the Torture Garden (1967)!
As with the rest of the Amicus anthologies, Torture Garden consists of four films plus a wrapper story. This time, the wrapper tale is the sideshow of Dr. Diablo (played by a delightful Burgess Meredith). The cast also includes Jack Palance and Peter Cushing (of course), and is directed by Freddie Francis, who also helmed other Amicus features like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The Skull, as well as Hammer’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.
The four stories involve glimpses into the possible futures of the unfortunate souls that stay behind to witness a Dr. Diablo’s special sideshow attraction: a wax doll of Atropos, the Fate that severs your life line. These are cautionary tales, intended to give each person a chance to turn away from their evil ways.
The first tale concerns a spendthrift playboy who tries to chisel money out of his uncle, only to discover the high cost of his uncle’s fortune: appeasing a diabolical cat. The second short is about an aspiring Hollywood actress who learns the secret means some stars use to stay on top of the marquee, a method that comes at a steep price to one’s humanity. The third movie, maybe the weirdest, is about the doomed love triangle between a concert pianist, a journalist, and a piano. The final film sees Jack Palance and Peter Cushing as rival collectors of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia and examines the lengths some people will go to in order to collect the rarest pieces of a famous person’s life.
Torture Garden is a solid entry into the Amicus anthology series. All four films are quite fun, with the second and fourth episodes being my favorite. Watching Burgess Meredith and Jack Palance devour the scenery is always a treat, especially given they’re playing against more staid British actors. I happily award Torture Garden 3 and a half out of 5 skulls, keeping the lovefest for Amicus films flowing this year.