Tormented is a 1960 horror film directed and produced by Bert I. Gordon from a screenplay he wrote with George Worthing Yates (Earth vs. the Spider; War of the Colossal Beast). The film stars Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Susan Gordon, Lugene Sanders, Juli Reding and Joe Turkel (the barman in The Shining). According to an interview with Bert I. Gordon, an alternate version of the film was made for foreign release that featured some nudity on the part of actress Juli Reding.
Jazz pianist Tom Stewart (Carlson), who lives on a Cape Cod island community, is preparing to marry his fiancee Meg. Shortly before the wedding, Tom’s old girlfriend Vi (Juli Reding) visits and informs him that she will end Tom’s relationship with Meg, using blackmail if necessary. While arguing on top of a lighthouse, the railing Vi is leaning against gives way. She manages to briefly hang on, but Tom refuses to help and watches her fall to her death.
The next day, Tom sees Vi’s body floating in the water. He retrieves her only to see the body turn into seaweed. Tom tries to forget what he’s seen, but over the next several days, all manner of strange occurrences happen. Vi’s watch washes up on the beach and mysterious footprints appear in the sand. Before long, Vi’s ghost appears and tells Tom that she will haunt him for the rest of his life.
One day, Meg’s little sister Sandy shows up and asks Tom if she can see the engagement ring. As Tom shows it to Sandy, he’s spooked by a disembodied hand that soon makes off with the ring. Soon afterward, a party is held for Tom and Meg. Vi’s disembodied head makes a small appearance in a photo taken of Tom and Meg, and when he’s alone, Vi taunts Tom that she’ll now use her voice to tell the world how Tom Stewart killed her.
To add to Tom’s dilemma, a ferry-driving beatnik (Joe Turkel) comes looking for Tom, intent on collecting the $5 Vi owes him for her trip to the island. Tom’s haste to pay the fellow off causes the shifty man to stick around, where his attempts to blackmail Tom lead to the ferryman’s death. However, unbeknownst to Tom, Sandy has inadvertently witnessed the murder…
“Tormented has some moody scenes and decent camerawork. It reminds me a bit of a William Castle film (some of the score was re-used by Allied Artists from Castle’s House on Haunted Hill). Really, all that is lacking is a gimmick or other ruse for the audience. The film’s worth a look. There’s even a dismembered head scene! Where did Juli’s body go?” Monster Minions
“The acting is what you’d expect from a B-picture horror film of the era, mostly schlock. Even Richard Carlson seems awkward in his role, especially as he feigns his jazz piano numbers. The other acting is barely noteworthy, though Joe Turkel (Village of the Giants) turns in an amusing performance as Nick, the blackmailer. Tormented probably could have been a spooky little film, but the effects and acting are just too cheesy to make the viewer uneasy.” Exclamation Mark