Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Johnny Deadline: TORMENTED (1960)

 by JB

I can see my house from here!

I have of late fallen down a rabbit hole, looking for motion pictures that were filmed close to where I live. (You’ve heard of Malibu? I live RIGHT NEXT TO IT!) The Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray disc of perennial favorite It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World contains a bonus feature in which many of the film’s locations are shown as they appear in the film and as they look now, 61 years later. Using two screen grabs from that video essay, my tireless wife went to work on the Google Maps machine and... three of four hours later... found the actual location of the one scene shot in Oxnard! (You know the scene; it’s the only one featuring the great Buster Keaton.) It was shot near Hobie Beach. She found the address! We’re going to pay a visit there next week. Maybe I will be able to find an empty pack of smokes that Keaton carelessly discarded to add to my collection.

But I digress.
This past weekend, our very own Patrick Bromley and his Horror BFF Heather Wixson held their book signing for In Search of Darkness at horror mecca Dark Delicacies. Many stars and directors of '80s horror films came to the signing as well. It was the ginchiest. I had read that scenes in the film Matinee were filmed in Oxnard, and last Saturday I finally got a chance to ask director Joe Dante WHICH scenes. Turns out, NO scenes. The production never set foot in Oxnard; they filmed all the Key West beach stuff... in Key West. Never believe all of what you read. I have read more than one source that claims Oxnard and the Pacific Ocean filled in for Key West and the Atlantic Ocean.

I was attracted to this new Film Masters release for two reasons: friend of the site Heath Holland gave it a glowing review on his Cereal at Midnight channel on the YouTube machine, and I heard a rumor that it was filmed in Malibu and the Channel Islands—a stone’s throw from my door. Spinning the disc, I immediately recognized Point Mugu a local landmark that has been used in countless Hollywood films, from the Beach Party series to Planet of the Apes. The filmmakers chose some really lovely locations, although the lighthouse that figures prominently in the narrative was filmed in Massachusetts and awkwardly matted in.

TRIVIA: For my first two years here, I pronounced this place Point MOO-GOO, as if it were the best place to eat the famous Chinese carryout dish. At a dinner party recently, a local man corrected me and said that residents pronounced it Point MAGOO, as if it were the birthplace of the Jim Backus-voiced animated character. This made me extremely happy because if the Malibu locals get a hint that you are “not from around here,” they beat the shit out of you, tie you to a surfboard and send you floating to Hawaii. I stand corrected. Thank you, long-time friend of Mike and Ellen!
I was unfamiliar with Tormented, the first attempt by drive-in horrormeister Bert I. Gordon to branch out into more adult material. The film is now in the public domain.

Loyalists to F This Movie! might remember that nine long years ago, I reviewed a very fun Halloween disc from then-thriving Something Weird Video titled Monsters Crash the Pajama Party. That DVD-only release was a collection of spook-show trailers, Halloween cartoons, 3-D shorts, and other scary ephemera put together by a group of crazed maniacs. The story goes that at the last minute, the disc producers felt bad because their new release didn’t actually contain a movie, so they threw in Tormented at the last minute. If you took my advice way back then and purchased Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, you already own Tormented! Sealed copies of Monsters Crash the Pajama Party are currently selling for upwards of $90 on the eBay machine. Listen to me next time!
THE PLOT IN BRIEF: Constipated jazz musician Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson) is saying goodbye to one of his many casual flings, Vi Mason (Juli Redding) at the top of a lighthouse, as one does. Seems the Tomcat is finally getting married to good-girl Meg Hubbard (Lugene Sanders) and needs to give Vi the keys to the street. The lighthouse is in disrepair, and Vi falls off a broken railing. There is a tortured moment when Tom could arguably save her, but he chooses not to, and she falls to her death. That’s the whole plot; Tom goes on to marry Meg and is in NO WAY TORMENTED by Vi’s ghost, right? Right.

TANGENT: At this point I was going to make the joke that once Tom and Meg tie the knot and have children, Meg would literally become “Mother Hubbard.” But this was the early Sixties, and I realized the marriage would merely make her Mother Stewart.
While I realize that it is only April, the new Film Masters disc of Tormented already has my vote for one of the discs of the year. Here’s why: 1) The transfer is a revelation. Comparing the old public domain version to this new disc is literally night and day, 2) The film itself is obscure but very enjoyable. It’s like an above-average 75-minute Twilight Zone episode, 3) The new disc includes the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version... so right after you finish watching it, as I did, you can enjoy Joel and the ‘Bots making fun of it, 4) The new disc includes an engaging audio commentary by Gary Don Rhodes, who was a personal friend of Joe Turkel (The Killing, Paths of Glory, The Shining, Blade Runner). Hear all about why Turkel despised co-star Richard Carlson! 5) The new disc includes two featurettes by Ballyhoo Pictures, one an interview with director Gordon, and a much longer piece covering his entire career, 6) Unused Vincent Price introductions filmed for a proposed Bert I. Gordon ghost story television series, for which an abridged Tormented was going to be the pilot, and 7) 22-page booklet, featuring essays on the film by Tom Weaver and John Wooley. It is an embarrassment of riches. The pleasure this disc provides in terms of cost versus content is off the charts. I paid a little less than $20 for the new disc; it kept me off the mean streets of Malibu for 10+ hours!

Moo Goo.


  1. It seems like you are becoming a Californian, J.B. Filming locations are not even far away from you.

    I believe Something Weird is shutting down as an operating entity this year. My introduction to the company was an on-demand cable service that I discovered in 2008. So many social hygiene films, trailers, and burlesque acts were watched on that. All of the interviews that I have heard with Lisa Petrucci (widow of the company founder, Mike Vraney) have implied that keeping the company going has been a struggle. I will always value my small Something Weird collection and the years of renting all kinds of Something Weird weirdness when Netflix still had a lot of everything to offer.

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  3. On June 25th, Film Detective is putting out the Something Weird double feature, Common Law Wife & Jennie, Wife/Child on Blu-Ray with 3 commentary tracks and a new featurette from Ballyhoo. I know I treasure all the original SW double feature DVD’s I was able to collect back in the day.

    1. I have that DVD release. I took it out for Hicksploitation day last June; Jennie, Wife/Child was a perfect pick for that day.

      I keep a lookout for those old Something Weird releases. As you pointed out, many of those releases are pricey on the second-hand market. I especially regret not getting some of the Harry Novak films when they were being put out. There have not been many releases of those since the 2000s.