Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chilling Classics #2/50 - Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon (1973)

aka the Mansion of Madness

Director: Juan Lopez Moctezuma
Starring: Claudio Brook, Arthur Hansel

Based on a short by Edgar Allen Poe, this was the first film directed by Jodorowski protege Juan Lopez Moctezuma. Moctezuma is probably best known for his surrealistic possession film, Alucarda. I saw Alucarda a while back and hated it. Mostly I just remember a possessed girl screaming at the top of her lungs.

This is not so much a horror film, as a strange journey through an asylum that is being run by the inmates, but there are some murders and a rape along the way. A journalist visits the asylum and somehow does not seem to realize anything is amiss, when it is completely obvious to the viewer. He walks by obliviously, idly chatting with the asylum director, as an inmate is chased and beaten with sticks by some of the other patients. Once the asylum's 'security' guards jokingly attempt to fling him from a rope ladder, he begins to catch on.

A friend and I were discussing how these seventies movies have some kind of inherent creepiness to them, almost in spite of themselves. Something about the look of the film, the washed out colors, the faded black tones. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it just reminds of watching some weird old horror movie on TV that creeped us out as children. To this day, I remember watching Let's Scare Jessica To Death with my mom and being freaked out by the red-haired woman rising Ophelia-like out of the lake.

In any case, the idea of a decrepit mental ward out in the middle of the woods is a little disquieting, and there are moments of uneasiness here. But like most of the movies in the Chilling Classics set, it suffers from a subpar transfer, that at times leaves you straining your eyes to figure out what is going on, and I ended up stopping this one at about the halfway point, only to skip through it a couple days later to complete this mini-review. This is a competently made film, but I found myself getting sleepy not too far into it.

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