| 93 MINS | COLOUR | AMICUS |
The opening scene of the film shows a fairground. At a sideshow called the Torture Garden, Dr Diablo invites some patrons backstage for further excitement. He offers to show each one of them the wickedness that lies in their future. As each patron stares into the ‘shears of fate’ held by Atropos, a fortune-telling mannequin, they become hypnotised and glimpse their ultimate fate. Four stories are revealed :-
(1.) Enoch: A greedy nephew, Colin Williams, arrives at his uncle’s and demands to know where his stash of gold coins are hidden. The uncle refuses and subsequently dies when Williams confiscates his heart medication to try to wheedle the information from him. Now, where are the coins?
(2.) Terror Over Hollywood: Carla Hayes, a struggling actress, stymies her roommate’s date and gets to meet a prominent Hollywood producer. Ultimately this leads her to Bruce Benton, a matinee idol, who seems to have not aged for years; Carla soon learns his secret.
(3.) Mr Steinway: Journalist Dorothy Endicott meets with a nervous pianist and they soon fall in love. The only problem is that his piano, Euterpe, is getting jealous.
(4.) The Man Who Collected Poe: An obsessed Poe collector, Ronald Wyatt, wants to buy some of Lancelot Canning’s priceless Poe exhibits. A discovery in the cellar soon gets his attention.
After the tales are told, the wraparound story leads to a shocking conclusion.
(1.) Enoch: Digging in the cellar, Williams unearths a coffin containing a live cat, which then flees through the cellar door. The cat called Balthazar is actually a witch that leads Williams to the fortune, but also takes control of his mind, causing him to perform some sadistic acts. Williams is eventually arrested and killed by Balthazar in his cell. Balthazar then eyes another victim.
(2.) Terror Over Hollywood: Bruce Benton is actually an automaton. A doctor has discovered a way to transfer the information in a brain to a mechanical device. The top tier of actors in Hollywood is populated by them. After Carla discovers the truth, she has to become one of them to guarantee her silence.
(3.) Mr Steinway: Euterpe is a piano with a mind of its own that can even play by itself. So jealous is it of its owner’s new love that it pushes her out of the window to her death.
(4.) The Man Who Collected Poe: Wyatt finds some original manuscripts by Poe in Canning’s cellar, but they are written on modern paper. Canning admits that he has something quite amazing in his collection – Edgar Allan Poe himself, acquired by supernatural means. Wyatt struggles with Canning and hits him with a candlestick to get into the room Poe is in. Poe reveals that he wishes to die, and reveals that it can be done by fire. Wyatt sets light to the room and Poe says, “If you liberate one who has made a pact with the devil, you yourself become the devil’s slave. You are trapped my friend. Wyatt perishes in the fire”.
The fifth patron, scared to stare into the shears, goes berserk and uses the shears of Atropos to kill Dr Diabolo in front of the others causing them to panic and flee. It is then shown that he is working for Diablo and the whole thing was faked. Diabolo puts the shears back into the hand of Atropos and addresses the audience, revealing himself as the devil.
TimeOut: Second Amicus horror omnibus and one of the best, offering a clever framing device.
AllMovie: It lacks the strength and inventiveness to qualify as a top-tier horror film but it offers some creepy thrills to qualify as an entertaining diversion.
BritMovie: The stories are developed economically and inventively. The cast is competent despite the fast shooting schedule and limited expenditure.
From poster: Dare you see what Dr Diablo sees?
- Directed by Freddie Francis
- Produced by Max Rosenberg & Milton Subotsky
- Music by Don Banks & James Bernard
- Cinematography Norman Warwick
- Production company Amicus Productions
- The film was meant to star Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee but Columbia, wanted two American names, leading to Palance and Meredith’s casting.
Jack Palance — Ronald Wyatt | Burgess Meredith — Dr. Diabolo | Beverly Adams — Carla Hayes | Peter Cushing — Lancelot Canning | Michael Bryant — Colin Williams | John Standing — Leo | Robert Hutton — Bruce Benton | John Phillips — Storm | Michael Ripper — Gordon Roberts | Bernard Kay — Dr Heim | Catherine Finn — Nurse Parker | Maurice Denham — Uncle Roger | Ursula Howells — Miss Chambers | David Bauer — Charles | Niall MacGinnis — Doctor