Torture Garden (1967) by #FreddieFrancis & #RobertBloch w/#JackPalance #BurgessMeredith #BeverlyAdams #PeterCushing #JohnStanding
"Do You Dare See the 100 Horrors of Dr. Diablo?" #Horror #Amicus #NotQuiteClassicCinema pic.twitter.com/3KkG4IuFfD
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) February 1, 2020
I seem to recall that somebody told me never to watch Torture Garden (1967). He may have gone so far as to say that it was the worst movie he’d ever seen. Well…
Clearly he’d never seen any truly bad movies.
Torture Garden is a well made movie, with good actors, good production values, etc. It is not even in the same category as the “worst movies ever made”. I could name a few titles that might be contenders, but no matter which ones I choose, there will be someone out there who will say “But I love that movie…”. And I will most likely nod my head and say “So do I.”
I am a connoisseur of “bad movies”. I have friends with whom I watch movies, and we often refer to our marathons as “bad movies nights”. But this does not mean that we judge all of the movies we watch to be “bad”. Often we discover movies that we quite like; lost gems from the video fringes and bargain bins of yesteryear. Sometimes a movie is objectively “bad”, but it is 90 minutes of pure entertainment. Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) is often called “the worst movie ever made”, but it is actually quite fun to watch. This raises the question: If a movie if entertaining, can it truly be called bad?
One of my favourite movie review books, Terror On Tape by James O’Neill, gives Plan 9 From Outer Space three stars (on a four star system). On the same page he gives Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me (1971) three stars. These movies are at opposite ends of the spectrum, quality-wise, but O’Neill gives them the same rating. He calls Plan 9… a “grade Z masterpiece” and notes that it is “a lot funnier than many intentional so-called comedies.” A lot of books would give Plan 9… zero stars, or half a star, and dismiss it as a “bad movie”. I admire O’Neill’s approach, which I think is more useful. Incidentally, O’Neill also gives Torture Garden three stars. One might be tempted to think he gives all movies three stars, but I can assure you that this is not the case.
Torture Garden is an entertaining horror anthology by Amicus Productions, the British film company that specialized in horror anthologies (Tales From The Crypt (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), etc.), It is written by well known author Robert Bloch, most famous for writing Psycho. All of the stories in Torture Garden involve an element of the fantastic; something that could be described as “far fetched”, if one was particularly inclined to stick with realism. I could imagine that this might be why some people would say Torture Garden is a “bad movie”, or in fact “the worst movie” they have ever seen.
But that’s complete nonsense, isn’t it? Good movies can be made from ideas that are utterly absurd. I can think of a few personal favourites that if someone had pitched to me before they were made, I might have said “How the hell is THAT going to make a good movie?” The idea, or concept, isn’t always the most important thing. A composer friend of mine was once looking for an idea for a new musical. He wanted it to be “perfect”, so he kept running ideas past me and asking what I thought. Most of the time I would say “That’s an idea that could work.” Eventually I said “Look, it doesn’t matter what IDEA you choose. The trick is just to pick something and work hard to MAKE it good.” Who would have thought that a musical about cats would be a monster success (not withstanding the new movie adaptation which some people are calling “the worst movie they have ever seen)?
Torture Garden (1967) is not the worst movie I have ever seen. I enjoyed it – perhaps all the more for having been warned away from it once upon a time. The fact that some people feel it’s horrendously bad makes it #Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema and the perfect addition to a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.