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The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)


If nothing else, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) is beautiful to watch. It’s the only color, full-length feature film included in Severin’s fantastic box set, The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee. The colors are crisp, sometimes bright, and the sets are wonderfully detailed. Luckily for us, these elements are not the only good things about the film.

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I can’t identify the cinematographer, so let’s dig deeper and praise the art direction by Gabriel Pellon (who was also uncredited for set decoration) and Rolf Zehtbauer (uncredited.) There’s one particular long shot of a carriage crossing the countryside in which the grass is green and the sky is orange; it’s gorgeous.

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The interiors are just as colorful in what seem to be sets built by Werner Achmann (uncredited.) They’re basically caves and dungeons, but authentic in a way you know isn’t real, but it doesn’t matter. There are skulls built into the walls, green blood dripping on clear coffins, and cubby holes throughout for rats, snakes, spiders, and vultures.

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Let’s circle back now and talk about complementary details in the action. For example, during the sequence with the pretty grass and sky, the carriage seems to hit some bumps in the road. However, when the passengers look out the windows, they aren’t bumps. They’re dead bodies. In fact, human limbs hang from trees everywhere, as if they’re branches.

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For an example inside the castle ruins/cave/dungeon, not only do vultures gnaw on what we assume is human remains, but our hero, Roger (Lex Barker), carries our heroine, Lilian (Karin Dor) over the goo and gore that remains on the floor. This attention to detail adds immensely to a story that, on its own, might be a little light.

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The film opens with Count Frederic Regula (Lee) being drawn and quartered in the public square. 35 years later, descendants of the people responsible for his capture face the consequences of the curse Regula made before four horses took off running, lifting his body in the air before…

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Good or bad, we don’t see Regula’s body actually come apart. I’m happy leaving it to the imagination, especially since the scene then jumps to someone telling the story with some crude, but graphic drawings. This isn’t the only scene that is incredibly suspenseful not because of what we see, but because of what we don’t.

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There are some twists and turns with the plot, particularly with the character of Pater Fabian (Vladimir Medar), the priest who accompanies Roger and Lilian on their journey to castle Andomai when the guest house he was going to visit is discovered burned to the ground. If you think he’s a little suspicious the way he leers at the ladies, you’ll learn you have good reason.

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Regula was originally executed for the murder of 12 women. He was unable to complete his experiments in immortality because he was caught before he could kill the 13th required for the spell/potion/whatever to work. Hence, he invites Lilian for a little sleepover from which she would never wake, except for the fact that she’s not scared enough for her blood to work.

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Lee’s resurrected Regula doesn’t do much (except, again, look terrific in makeup by Erich L. Schmekel and Gerda Bublitz (uncredited.) It’s his henchman, Anatol (Carl Lange) that straps Roger to the floor beneath a descending pendulum and sends Lilian through a house of horrors to try to find him. Let’s just say her adventure gets her blood pumping just right for Regula.

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Except for the subject matter, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism could almost be G-rated. It’s not nearly as sordid as its title indicates. Directed by Harald Reinl, it’s got me interested in seeing some of his other movies, including The Carpet of Horror, The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle and The Sinister Monk. In lieu of those, though, I’d gladly watch this one again.


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