The Black Torment (1964)

*. Not a Hammer production, but a low-budget (even lower-budget than Hammer!) clone. The production company was Compton Films, managed by Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger. Their first film was Naked as Nature Intended, which I’m guessing was a “nudie cutie,” but they’d actually go on to do some good stuff, including Polanski’s Repulsion and Cul-de-sac. When Tenser (“the Godfather of British Exploitation”) went solo he’d produce Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers and Witchfinder General.
*. Alas, they didn’t have real talent like Polanski or Reeves helming this one. The director was Robert Hartford-Davis, about whom I know nothing. Apparently he ordered that all prints of his movies be destroyed after his death. That seems a bit strong. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything to be particularly proud about here, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.
*. Well, like I say, it’s a Hammer clone. A stately manorial pile (The Vyne, standing in for Fordyke Hall) is home to various sinister happenings in what I think is the early 19th century, based on the army uniforms. As things begin a woman with a heaving bosom is chased through a forest before being strangled. Then the lord of the manor returns home with his new bride. There are whispers in the village that he (the lord of the manor) is actually the strangler, which we might also suspect once the lord starts seeing the ghost of his previous wife stalking the grounds of Fordyke Hall at night. Another woman is killed after a roll in the hay with her swain (“I’ll keep you warrrrrm!” he provocatively tells her). What’s going on? Is Sir Richard Fordyke losing his marbles? Or is he the victim of some dastardly plot?
*. OK, I’ll spoil this for exactly no one and tell you it’s a dastardly plot. This is basically a Gaslight story, which Hammer also, for some reason, grew fond of around this time. A bit different for the gender reversal and Regency setting, but otherwise very dull and predictable. The dialogue and acting are both very bad, feeding off one another. Look at the scene where Sir Richard confronts one of his servants about a mysterious banging window. “Every night the window bangs open . . . wind or no wind. So I come to shut it. It is m’lady’s window, sir. ” Meaning, the previous lady of the house, now deceased. The lines are given a ridiculous gravity, but then they’re so clunky I don’t know what else the actor could have done with them. Meanwhile, the plot throws every cliché in the book at you. We wind up with a swordfight that has the hero taking a swing at a stand of candles and slicing them off. Tally-ho!
*. Not even fun in a campy or exploitative way but just a humdrum bore to sit through. I’m not sure what the title refers to, but it’s the best thing about it. That and the fact that it’s short. I didn’t, and don’t, want to spend any more time on it.

13 thoughts on “The Black Torment (1964)


    The director made Gonks Go Beat and The Smashing Bird I Used to Know (a.k.a. School for Unclaimed Girls), both of which are key texts in the UK, taught in every school and the characters from which are featured on all second class UK postage stamps.


        In the UK after Brexit, it is illegal for any household not to have a copy of Gonks Go Beat on DVD. Home Secretary Priti Patel will duet with Boris Johnson on a new hi-NRG disco-fantastia version of the theme for School for Unclaimed Girls as part of the Conservative Party conference in 2021. This is why the director wanted his work destroyed.

        Here’s another for you

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Hmm. Seems to have been a pattern of him disowning his work. There’s actually something sort of depressing about that, considering it grew to encompass everything he did. He could have just called me up. Out to do bins now and I’m sure I could find room for some old prints.


        Well, if anyone knows about disowning your own work, you would be the man to give advice. I’d disown everything I’d ever written if I was you. Bin the lot and burn it, you’d be doing society a favour.

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Too late. The National Archives and the British Library have already got copies of everything that’s digital. Probably auction off the papers in a few years. How’s your stuff faring? Disappearing into the cloud as we speak, leaving not a wrack behind? Probably for the best.

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