CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973)

If all Juan López Moctezuma directed was Alucarda, he’d still be celebrated. Throw in the fact that he was behind the camera for El Topo and also created this little piece of strangeness and you can see that he’s someone to be celebrated.

A journalist has traveled to Dr. Maillard’s (Claudio Brook, AlucardaThe Devil’s Rain!) remote mental institution to write a story about the progressive treatment the doctor offers: patients are free to roam and fully live out their fantasies. However, when he gets there, the reporter learns from the doctor’s daughter Eugenie that he hasn’t met the real doctor, just one of the inmates that is quite literally running the asylum and randomly quoting Aleister Crowley. Even better — Susana Kamini, Justine from Alucarda, shows up as a cult priestess!

Imagine if Hammer or Amicus made a movie in Mexico, with all of the dialogue in English, and fed massive amounts of drugs to everyone involved. That’s pretty much how I imagine that this film was made. It’s also an Edgar Allan Poe story (The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether), but really, it’s also a costume drama with more powdered wigs than a British courthouse. And man, has there ever been so sensationalistic a title?

Will you like it? Not if you’re expecting a horror movie. Again, the Chilling Classics set confounds expectations, seeming like it will only feature the worst schlock and somehow embracing Mexican art cinema. I can only imagine that there’s a basement in the Mill Creek offices where the maniac that chose the films for this set signed off on it with a feather pen and a giant flourish, exclaiming, “I hope this makes someone’s brain melt!”

Beyond watching this on the Chilling Classics box set, you can also find it on Amazon Prime. If you want a much better looking copy of this film, Mondo Macabro released it as The Mansion of Madness, complete with a brand new digital transfer and Guillermo dl Toro discussing the director.

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