DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON (1973)
aka The Mansion of Madness
Article 4867 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Juan Lopez Moctezuma
Featuring Claudio Brook, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman
What it is: Mexican Poe adaptation
A journalist visits a French asylum in order to write an article on the advanced techniques being used there. However, things are not quite right in the asylum…
I could probably go on about how the mystery at the center of this story is a bit of a no-brainer, but I think that would imply that the director was interested in that revelation being a surprise. I don’t believe that was Moctezuma’s intent. Rather, I think he saw the story as a springboard for what really interested him, which was the bizarre dialogue, weird behavior, and surreal imagery in which the central concept allowed him to indulge, and, to be honest, Moctezuma does have a flair for these things. A DVD cover on display at IMDB has a quote that name-drops Bunuel, Fellini and Ken Russell as people whose work bears similarities to that of Moctezuma’s in this movie, though I think a more apt and more relevant comparison could be made to the works Alejandro Jodorowsky; after all, Moctezuma served as an associate producer on EL TOPO. Still, all of those other film-makers are more audacious than Moctezuma, and nothing I’ve seen of his at this point is of the level of the works of the others. Still, it has its uses. One of the odd things about this movie is its attempts at humor, an aspect I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the music on the soundtrack didn’t get goofy during those moments. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, since Poe’s source story (to which the movie is more or less faithful) was one of his more humorous ones, but in this movie, the humorous moments are not only out of place, but they don’t really work very well. Still, if you take into account that this is Moctezuma’s first directorial effort, it’s not all that bad.