In Medival England, a sadistic duke plots to kill off all the heirs to the throne of England so he can claim he title crown for himself.
To be honest I haven’t seen many exploitation films. More recent exercises in the genre – Black Dynamite and Grindhouse are both in my top favourite films. However these films replicate the exploitation feel and look but still have a modern take in it’s filmmaking from production value to script. Watching 1970 sexploitation film Torture Chamber directed by Andy Milligan was definitely a new experience for me. Set in medieval England the story starts with the death of a king and the discussion of who will take his place by his council. We are introduced to the evil Norman, Duke of Norwich who is last in line for the throne but by murdering all those in line before him will be able to become king. He then sets out a plan to do just that!
It’s important to start off by saying that the film had a budget of roughly $15,000. I think going into this film knowing what kind of standard you are going to get lessens the blow a bit. Not that the type of genre it is is bad however if you are expecting what we are shown as exploitation in today’s standards you might be disappointed. The set and costumes reflect the films budget but there definitely is still a love and creativity put into the feel and aesthetic of the clothes.
They tell the story and thats good enough even if they do look like a bunch of costumes a high school production of Camelot would make. It’s obvious they filmed Torture Dungeon on a farm using maybe one or two barns but like the costumes they serve their purpose and the amateur nature of it all is sort of charming. One strong point of the film which really surprised me was the fun and intelligent script written by John Borske and Milligan. The language used is reminiscent of the time the film is set and has wit to spare. These boys knew what they were writing about! The film gives a good example that even with such a minuscule budget you can strengthen the film with a smart script – even if it is a sexploitation film!
The majority of the actors have been picked off the street – I mean literally. So you can expect some dead pan reading of lines but there are some over-the-top campy as hell characters which makes a nice balance in the film. The woman playing the marriage counsellor is absolutely crazy and is definitely one of the highlights in the film. Her frolicking around the screen made me laugh like a little school girl. The evil duke (Gerald Jacuzzo) plays the camp beyond comprehension delivering beautiful lines like “I’m not a homosexual, I’m not a heterosexual. I’m a try sexual. I’ll try anything for pleasure”.
Yet for a sexploitation film Torture Dungeon has a lot less torture and sex than what is advertised. Most of the sex is only alluded too with cuts at sex scenes and blurry imagery of nudity. Sure the illusion to sex can often be a known technique of exploitation films but I wanted to see the evil duke have sex with his hunch-backed servant! Ok I digress. The kills in the film are so-so, having a low budget isn’t a good enough excuse not to have impressive kills so this was a let down for me. The film is very script heavy and sometimes plays more like a period drama/thriller than a horror slasher.
A film like this is obviously bad by film standards. I wouldn’t be rushing to go see it again however I was intrigued and it did captivate my attention in its weird eccentricities. Torture Dungeon reminds me of a time when film could be terrible but still have fun in playing with the tropes and stereotypes of medieval period films. If you haven’t even seen a true exploitation film Torture Dungeon is a fun 80 minute tutorial on one of the ways you can dive into sexploitation.