After the resounding success of their first portmanteau horror film Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) it was inevitable that Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky would initiate a second. In the meantime Amicus had produced eight single narrative films with varying degrees of success. The commercial high point of this two year period was without a doubt Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD (1966). But in terms of creativity Amicus hit a home run with the peculiar contemporary set gothic chiller The Skull (1965). The short story that formed the basis of this distinctive film was written by Robert Bloch, and it was to his short stories that Amicus would turn for their second anthology Torture Garden. This time Subotsky took a back seat with regards to the writing and allowed Bloch the opportunity to adapt his own stories. One of the weaknesses of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors was the clichéd nature of Subotsky’s screenplay, the stories themselves were highly predictable, but the movie was saved by an ingenious framing narrative. Although Torture Garden has aged very badly (it is easily amongst the weakest of Amicus’ anthologies) the stories themselves do at least possess a certain off kilter originality, and a weirdness and unpredictability that makes them far more intriguing propositions than the desultory generic retread Subotsky had provided two years before.
© Shaun Anderson 2011