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Film / Tormented (1960)

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Guess he really got a-head!
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A 1960 "horror" film, directed by Bert I. Gordon.

Jazz pianist Tom Stewart is engaged to rich girl Meg. Unfortunately for him, his possessive former flame Vi shows up intending to disrupt the nuptials. Fortunately for him, Vi meets him in a dilapidated old lighthouse; and when she falls through the rusted guardrail, he refuses to save her. Exit Vi. Problem solved.

Turns out Vi's spirit is still hanging around, "tormenting" Tom and still intent upon wrecking his wedding. Or, is it all in Tom's head?

Well, no, turns out it's Vi's head.

After about an hour of ghostly cat-and-mouse, a beatnik boater arrives and, deducing what has happened to Vi, begins to blackmail Tom, forcing him into action to protect his secret. This, however, is witnessed by Meg's little sister, Sandy. Tom is about to off Sandy as well, but Vi's ghost arrives and finally exacts her revenge.

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For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here. Not to be confused with the 2009 British film of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: Sandy and Tom in the lighthouse, after Sandy sees Tom killing the beatnik. It's Tom basically wringing his hands as he tries to work himself up to killing her rather than risk her telling anyone what she knows.
  • Anti-Villain: Tom, at least at first, with Vi going out of her way to assure him she would ruin his life even as he was trying, in his way, to try and be a better man.
  • Arc Words: "Tom Stewart killed me! Tom Stewart killed me!" A bit misleading, but "Tom Stewart stood there staring without lifting a finger while I pleaded for him to save my life!" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
  • Asshole Victim: Vi is a pretty much loathsome person that nobody really feels sorry for. The boater is much the same way, as he cares less about justice for Vi and more about getting blackmail money. It's hard to feel sorry for Tom as well, of course.
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  • Beatnik: The ferryman who brought Vi over from the mainland and starts pulling the thread when he realizes she's nowhere to be found; he dresses like a milkman and talks fluent slang. It's a strange kind of movie where the Villain Protagonist is an alleged jazz pianist but one of the primary antagonists is a beatnik, but there you have it.
  • Betty and Veronica: Sultry Vi is the Veronica to good girl Meg's Betty, though admittedly it doesn't last for long, with Vi dead before we even actually meet Meg.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tom is killed by falling from the lighthouse, which he kinda deserves... and after his and Vi's bodies are found, Vi's arm slumps over him possessively. The film closes on the newly-widowed Meg's horror and the mentally-scarred Sandy's tears.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: The beatnik boatman who catches wise to Vi's conspicuous absence from the island to Tom: "The way I see it, you an' me... we should be partners."
  • Blind Seer: Mrs. Ellis seems to be able to sense Vi on some level, but doesn't appear to realize she's a ghost until her laughter nearly leads her to her death.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sandy idolizes Tom. She goes into a full-on Heroic BSoD when she witnesses Tom murdering the boat driver to keep Vi's death a secret.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Vi won't let anyone else have Tom, even if that means ruining his life. Even in death. Maybe.
  • Driven to Madness: Whether Tom believes in Vi or not, seeing and hearing her when no one else can has this effect on him.
  • Evil Laugh: Vi's ghost has a good laugh at Tom's suffering as the knowledge of her death drives him to distraction.
  • Flying Face: Most of Vi's appearances as a ghost have her popping out of furniture or hovering around taunting Tom as a disembodied head.
  • Harmful to Minors: Sandy sees her Precocious Crush bludgeon a man to death, gets stuck alone with Tom in the lighthouse while he tries to decide — out loud — whether or not to kill her, then sees him fall to his death and wash ashore with the body of the woman he murdered.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: The beatnik boatman hasn't, which gets him killed. Tom asks this almost word for word to Sandy when he realizes she saw him killing the beatnik.
  • He Knows Too Much: Scuzzy beatnik boat guy and, eventually, Sandy.
  • Informed Ability: Tom is allegedly a great jazz pianist. Allegedly.
  • I See Dead People: Well, dead people's heads. And they won't shut up!
  • It Won't Turn Off: The record player, apparently being manipulated by the ghostly Vi.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Vi's death is accident mixed with hesitation, which becomes murder by virtue of how easily Tom could have saved her if he'd tried. The boat driver is an obvious slimeball, so Tom decides to murder him rather than allow him to ruin his life. Finally, Tom is about to kill Meg's younger sister Sandy to keep the previous two deaths a secret. Instead he dies a Karmic Death, still haunted by Vi.
  • Karmic Death: Backing away from Vi's ghost in terror, Tom falls over the lighthouse railing to his death, in much the same manner as he himself allowed Vi to fall to her death when the railing previously gave way.
  • Lighthouse Point: The film starts in the crumbling old lighthouse, reaches its climax there, and ends on the beach below it. Most of the other major events revolve around it in one way or another.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Tom's the only one who can see Vi, and he mostly thinks he's seeing things, Driven to Madness by the guilt. On the other hand, Mrs. Ellis senses something in the lighthouse as well, but at first she believes it's the ghosts of another family that died on the island. Ultimately, however, there's nothing that Vi does that couldn't be explained by an overactive imagination and the power of suggestion (and the island's seagull population and the creakiness of the old lighthouse) — the old woman goes into the lighthouse thinking Vi is alive and hiding, playing tricks on Tom.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Vi is very curvy, and while her body may not be in the film for long, the director makes the most of it.
  • Murder by Inaction: In the opening of the film, a railing suddenly gives way and Vi falls over the ledge. There was no premeditation or intent on Tom's part, but he spends an awful lot of effort trying to convince himself it wasn't his fault while knowing full well that he had nearly half a minute to reach her and could've easily pulled her to safety if he weren't more concerned with the potential damage she could do to his marriage to Meg.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Tom keeps hemming and hawing and doubting himself, but this is the conclusion he arrives at each time.
  • Never My Fault: Tom spends the majority of the film trying to convince himself he was in no way responsible for Vi's death.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Vi's method of haunting Tom has a parallel with a story of a previous tenant that Mrs. Ellis tells Tom about. A boy and dog drowned nearby, and from then on, his parents felt seawater in his bedroom and could hear his voice along with the dog's barking.
  • One-Word Title
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Vi is just a head, and it's not clear whether she's actually a ghost or just in Tom's mind; or if what Mrs. Ellis senses is the ghost of Vi, the lingering presence of murder in the lighthouse, or just her intuitively sensing something off between Tom, Sandy, and the beatnik.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Meg's dad does not approve of musicians, especially jazz musicians, and blames the ruined wedding ceremony on Tom despite the obviously supernatural goings-on.
  • Precocious Crush: Sandy to Tom, who plays along.
    Tom (to Sandy): All right; from now on, you're the other woman in my life!
  • Railing Kill: Vi, almost the blind seeress, and ultimately Tom.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Tom is convinced that his relationship with Vi will ruin his career.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Vi doesn't have the look, but she's got the methods.
  • Title Drop: The record in the record player, which is "Tormented".
  • Together in Death: Vi and Tom. At the Dénouement, when their bodies are discovered and laid side by side on the beach, her arm drapes itself around him and sports Meg's previously lost wedding ring. Whether or not that's what Tom wanted is something Vi didn't care about.
  • Totally Radical: The freaky hepcat beatnik and his hip lingo.
  • Unfinished Business: Vi is "tormenting" Tom in order to get revenge for her death.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tom, moderately sympathetic at first, lets Vi plummet to her death within the opening minutes of the movie and closes it out openly contemplating the murder of his fiancee's baby sister.
  • Verbed Title
  • The Voiceless: Ghost Vi until she found her voice, and at that point Tom was even more tormented. "Tom Stewart killed me!"
  • Yandere: Vi still pines for Tom even after he's responsible for her death and remains just as determined to have him while keeping him away from another woman.

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