The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism - Blu-ray review

Christopher Lee gets nasty in this classic from Director Harald Reinl

James Whittington
Thursday, March 7, 2024

The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism

88 Films

Certificate 15

Shot in the same location as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism AKA Blood Demon, is a gothic horror set in the same style of Roger Corman movies with a hint of Hammer.

After being executed for the murder of twelve women, Count Regula (Lee) returns from the grave to wreak his terrible revenge on society in this full-on, late-60s West German shocker. Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum it combines torture, sensationalism, and green-blooded man-servants in a weirdly affecting grand guignol-style presentation, dripping with vibrant colour and gothic atmosphere.

Creepy but fun, this is very much of its time, quite literally. You see, though the location and sets look wonderfully correct for the period, the hairstyles of the cast remain firmly in the late 1960s. Talking of the cast the hero Roger is played by former Tarzan, Lex Barker with determination and grit whilst Karen Dor as Lilian is suitably vulnerable and even though Christopher Lee doesn’t appear properly until the last 20 minutes or so it’s worth the wait. Some comic relief comes from Vladimir Medar as Pater Fabian, a holy man with some choice hobbies.

The story is all about discovering your own history and the skeletons (quite literally) it can uncover and although this is wild fantasy and all about “The sins of the father” it’s an atmospheric and fun movie. The set-pieces are over the top, the dialogue (especially the dubbed lines) are way over-the-top in their delivery and the score is so bizarre it often juxtaposes what’s going on on screen. The pendulum sequence is very well realised and adds some wonderful tension to the end reel.

The transfer is quite something to behold. No matter where the scene is set the image is filled with detail and depth. The bold colours never bleed around the edges and even when there’s smoke or fog the picture is sharp. The soundtrack shows the limitations of the time and the dubbed track is slightly shrill in places, the German track is more solid.

Extras wise there’s plenty to choose from including a superb commentary from Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, a featurette on the locations, the German Super 8 Versions (Die Schlangengrube-Die Burg de Grauens and Die Schlangengrube de Grafen Dracula editions), original German and Modern trailers, and reversable sleeve art.

If you want a horror movie which contains a dashing hero, a driven villain and female lead who is given more to do than scream then this is for you and 88 Films has delivered big time with this.