Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This has probably been used in torture sessions

Dungeon of Harrow (1962)
Starring: Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan, William McNulty, Maurice Harris, and Michele Buqour
Director: Pat Boyette
Rating: One of Two Stars

A shipwrecked nobleman (Harvey) finds love and lepers in the castle of the insane, torture-obsessed Count DeSade (McNulty).

If anything, "Dungeon of Harrow" shows clearly that Pat Boyette made the right call when he stopped making movies in favor of a career as a painter and comic book artist; this goes double if it was Boyette who painted the artwork for the promotional poster for this film as it's the best thing about it. This film is Boyette's in every way--he helped write it, produce it, direct it, edit it, and even scored the music for it. The only thing that isn't terrible about it is the voice acting present in the narration, which was also done by Boyette, and which aleviates some of the pain of sitting through stretched-out scenes of actors wandering, sitting, or lounging around.

Every other actor in the film is as stiff and unnatural as the dialogue they deliver. Boyette was clearly going for an Edgar Allan Poe vibe with this movie, with the narrator looking back on horrible events, rampant madness, florid dialogue, and a storyline that will remind well-read viewers of "The Oblong Box", "Fall of the House Usher", and "The Raven" in equal measure.

Unfortunately, none of Boyette's actors have the chops to deliver the lines with the amped up melodrama present in the Corman Poe-inspired pictures from the same period and instead perform as though tye are under sedation for the entire film; I don't think there's ever been a movie about torture and madness with a more subdued set of performances ever released for viewing by the general public. Time and again, the lethargic actors turn what could and should have been frightening or dramatic into a test of patience so severe it would be out-and-out torture if forced upon a captive audience.

It's equally unfortunate that no-one seems to have taken the script further than a first draft, nor read it from beginning to end at any point during rehearsal, filming or editing. If someone had, they would have noticed characters behaving in contradictory and inconsistent fashions (not counting the batshit crazy DeSade), and several plotlines and characters appear and are dropped seemingly at random.

The film has two worthwhile and scary scenes--one where the Count believes he is being visited by a demon, and another where the main character is chained in the dungeon with an insane leper--but they are not worth sitting through the crap that surrounds them.