EDITORS NOTE: We recently brought you a list of Phil Anselmo’s favorite horror movies which you can read here. Turns out Mr. Anselmo is quite the horror aficianado and we’re very excited to bring you a new regular series of reports written by the man himself. Read on to check out the first monthly entry where he’ll be discussing some of his favorite and recently watched horror films.
Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon
This curiously titled film is a bizarre offering to say the very least. Tinges of Italian color schemes entwined with lunatic English-American wit dazzle the senses in this Spanish production. I’m not even sure it’s a cult favorite… I mean, when’s the last time you heard a “true” horror buff bring this one up? I know it’s been quietly tucked away in a “Chilling Classics” 50-movie pack, but that particular DVD version is shorter than my original VHS copy. No matter. It still gets its quirky, absurd and nerve-wracking point across. Or maybe it doesn’t…I’m not too sure, but whatever transpires in this rare gem is a visual/mental mind fuck that’ll leave a lasting stamp.
Set in France sometime in the late 1880’s (?), a newspaper reporter (Claudio Brooke) visits a county asylum for the criminally insane in hopes of getting an interview with the head honcho. His reason? Apparently the main man in charge of the place, one “Dr. Mayard” (Arthur Hansel), has revolutionized “novel methods of dealing with the mad”. What an understatement! The doctor doesn’t normally receive visitors, and his asylum in the woods holds some frightening surprises in store for anyone who dares trespass.
The reporter, accompanied by a former classmate (Martin LaSalle) and his female cousin, trudge on via horse and carriage, only to discover the gateway leading to Dr. Mayard’s institution is guarded by a crazed gaggle of characters that make the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest look relatively sane.
After having his request for his interview granted, the reporter is taken on a grand tour of the facility, meeting along the way a sexy seductress with multi-faceted personalities, including one of an ancient Syrian-like Goddess (Ellen Sherman); crews of ragged men sitting atop high scaffolding, apparently building a pointless, useless but important structure; an old man shackled in chains aptly named “Dante”; depraved lunatics living out complex individual roles of twisted endearment, and a character known affectionately as “Mr. Chicken”. As the tour continues, the more the reporter sees, the more things look, well, wrong!
Ok, Ok. This film is the classic “The crazies have taken over the asylum!” story…
BUT! Don’t let the overdone theme turn you off! NO WAY!!! It’s very probable there hasn’t been a film made with this enthusiastic, twisted a take on the whole thing. Blatantly awkward landscapes, beautifully painful quasi-religious imagery, and just plain aloof and goofy performances, especially by Dr. Mayard himself make this film worth it.
Directed by Juan Lopez Moctezuma and supposedly based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe, “Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon” isn’t much on gore, but its sheer weirdness makes up for whatever the hell’s lacking in this one. Anyone looking for crisp, sleek production and squeaky-clean CGI need not apply, for you will hate this. But if you like your films ’70s-grainy, with ’70s nudity and an unpredictable madcap scene-to-scene euphoria ending in mayhem for the ‘ol eyeballs, than join up!
By the by, the only reference to a “Dr. Tarr” in this movie comes in the form of one of Dr. Mayard’s many jesting, brilliant tirades whilst confusing the disgruntled reporter: “Why surely you’ve heard of the famous Dr. Tar and Dr. Feather?” Genius!