Directed by Harald Reinl [Other horror films: Die Bande des Schreckens (1960), Die unsichtbaren Krallen des Dr. Mabuse (1962), Der Teppich des Grauens (1962), Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor (1963), Zimmer 13 (1964), Der unheimliche Mönch (1965), Ein toter Taucher nimmt kein Gold (1974)]
Most commonly known as The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, this German film is quite a disappointment. To be sure, I’ve seen it once before, but I didn’t remember just how uneventful and dull so much of this movie tends to be.
The basic story here is that two people (and their plus ones) are going to an old castle. Once there, a count who has been dead for 35 years comes back from the dead to exact his revenge (as the two people at the castle are descendants of those who led to the Count’s execution). Some spooky things happen, and the Count is defeated.
I can’t say exactly how long it took them to reach the castle, but I can say the trip took at least 40 minutes. Sure, there’s some creepy scenery on the way there, and I’ll touch on that, but it’s entirely uneventful and honestly doesn’t do much but perhaps give some meager atmosphere. Once they’re at the castle, it still takes a bit of time for anything to actually happen. In fact, in my opinion, things finally started moving at 55 minutes into the film, leaving just 25 minutes left.
Those 25 minutes, though, saving one sequence, were also on the dull side.
To be frank, no performance here did anything for me. Lex Barker as the lead felt quite uninspired, Karin Dor (The Terrible People, The Carpet of Horror, The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, and Dark Echo) was dull, and though I hate to say it, Christopher Lee was also pretty unexciting, as though his heart wasn’t really in this.
Yes, a few good sequences take place (God, you’d hope so, as the same story that spawned this film also spawned the fantastic 1961 The Pit and the Pendulum), two of them on the long ride to the castle. The horse-drawn carriage passes through a forest, and the trees here have body parts, such as arms and legs, seemingly sticking out of them. That did look creepy, as did another forest which had a lot of hanged men on every tree.
At the castle, there was a pretty quality sequence where a ledge was slowly being taken from Dor’s character, and with each inch receding into the wall, the closer she was to falling into a pit of snakes. That was good stuff. The pendulum, however, was sort of weaksauce – the guy just threw a rock at it, knocked it into oscillation, and it perfectly severed the ropes holding his body down without cutting him.
I can’t express how much I wish I liked this one. I took four years of German in high school, and so feel an affinity with the country and it’s films, especially horror. The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism is just dull, though. It was underwhelming when I first saw it, and it still is. It might have some hokey fun every now and again, but to be honest, I was bored most of the time.