Two more episodes from Elvira’s Movie Macabre. The two films have little in common, but they do have odd little claims to fame. Scared to Death (1947) is Bela Lugosi’s only colour film. Tormented (1960), meanwhile, is actually pretty good for a Bert I. Gordon film, and features no back-projection-enlarged insects or people!
Scared to Death is narrated by the deceased Laura Van Ee (Molly Lamont). In a series of poorly-edited flashbacks, she recounts what led to her demise. A completely unsympathetic piece of work, she is in a loveless marriage, and suspects everyone from father-in-law George Zucco to shady performer Bela Lugosi to be out to get her. Somebody is, and does, and would-be comic relief Bill Raymond (Nat Pendleton) hopes to solve the murder to get back on the force. Old Dark House comedy-mysteries were old hat in the 30s, so 1947 is well past the expiration date of that subgenre. Furthermore, the house is neither old nor dark, and the colour doesn’t help matters of mood at all. This is absolutely stultifying, and has few equals as a cure for insomnia.
Tormented is a lot more fun. Sleazy jazz musician Richard Carlson dumps girlfriend Judi Reding for better prospect Susan Gordon. Reding won’t go away, and though a convenient fall from a lighthouse (one that Carlson could have prevented) kills her, she still won’t go away, hounding her ex from beyond the grave. It’s interesting to see schlockmeister Gordon tackle an honest-to-God ghost story, and though he can’t help but make use of some too-obvious (and thus funny) special FX, and the pulchritudinous Reding is a rather distractingly fleshy phantom, there are also moments that are genuinely creepy. All proportions maintained, this is a nicely spooky little tale.
So, while Elvira’s interruptions, groaners though they are, are rather welcome during the soporific Scared to Death, they are more mood-breakers on Tormented (which has also been given a superior MST3K) treatment. Then again, if you’re picking up an Elvira disc, you know what you’re in for, and the expected is present and correct in this package.