Not Schlock at all: Tormented

DATELINE: Low-budget does not mean schlock.

Hang on, Juli Hang on, Juli!

We were a tad put off by the Amazon Prime description of a 1960 movie as a “schlock classic,” and then found the blurb noting that it was Richard Carlson in 1960 as a jazz pianist who is haunted by his former girlfriend.

This sounded intriguing at worst, and it was not truth in advertising. Tormented is a highly professional, thoroughly hypnotic little bit of ghostly lore.

Carlson cut his teeth on the Creature from the Black Lagoon movies, and after was relegated to B-pictures. Well, he was a B-star always. However, he was one of those actors who was far more intelligent than the material and gave everything a kind of gravitas.

The accidental death of Vi, or at least her deliberate lack of saving, haunts Tom (Carlson). In her earliest scenes in particular, Juli Reding sounds like Marilyn Monroe, and even has the hair style down pat. Her later appearances in a flowing flimsy dress seem like Marilyn’s “Happy Birthday gown” for President Kennedy.

Perhaps the most schlocky thing in the movie is when Vi appears to torment Carlson by showing up as a disembodied head on his coffee table. Her ghost is almost comical, to the point of reversing the Vertigo end in ironical fashion-plate boiler-plate.

Wonderful character actor Joe Turkel shows up here in a ghost movie and later made a big hit as a ghost in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. He speaks in the jazz lingo of the 1950s, Dad.

With its simple and elegant beach house and light house as main sets, the film has a minimalist quality that really does not impede its effect. We love the two bodies pulled from the ocean and dropped next to each other. Nice touch.

Filmworker: More Than Kubrick’s Go-fer?

 DATELINE: Alternate Ego?

Leon Vitali Young Vitali

We won’t quibble with you. At first, we were put off by the idea that someone had done a documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s assistant. We thought it was chutzpah to call this man a partner or more in Kubrick’s career.

Leon Vitali prefers to be labeled “Filmworker,” and how wrong we were about his contributions to the works of the grand master after 1976. For 30 years, Vitali became more than an assistant: he was an alter ego, a shadow to Kubrick’s Peter Pan.

To work in such proximity to a whirlwind dervish genius takes its toll. He went from stunningly beautiful boy to haggard and wizened old man. He was there for Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, doing everything with Eyes Wide Shut.

Kubrick met Leon Vitali as an actor on the movie Barry Lyndon. The beautiful young man so impressed Kubrick that he revised the film and made him a featured actor. He is brilliant, trained by the Royal Shakespeare troupe, etc.

Yet, he threw it all away when given the chance to work as a Doppleganger to Kubrick.

Not many actors would toss away potential movie star status to become lost in the voracious appetite for work that was Kubrick. When you look at Vitali today in his old age, you cannot find the pretty boy he once was: the Kubrick perfection disease has ripped him to shreds.

We were surprised that he had time to procreate a family. For 30 years, on every film, he worked 20 hours per day, doing whatever Kubrick wanted: casting, lighting, sound, editing, scripts, and jack of all trades. Leon Vitali puts to rest the rumor that Kubrick filmed a fake Moon landing for NASA.

He had the enviable job of being on the right hand and left hand of Kubrick. He took startling photos of the reclusive genius. We liked see James Mason with Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining.

It was Vitali who came up with the idea of twin girls murdered by axe. He was child star Danny’s acting coach, and the lines between Kubrick and Vitali disappeared over the years. Kubrick would send out messages in Leon’s name, would call him for impossible and constant errands.

Vitali was more than an assistant. He was joined at the hip with the great auteur. You might suspect they were gay lovers, but their love was strictly the film business and mostly the art.






Shine on, Stanley Kubrick



Joe Turkel as the best dead bartender from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon

Though the book by Stephen King was a ghost tale with a few twists, the Stanley Hotel that inspired King became a mere backdrop to the other Stanley.

Kubrick took Tommy Knockers to a new level.

Some dismissed the original film in 1980 as Jack Nicholson on PEDs. It was hypnotic, as are all Kubrick movies, and drew audiences back when VHS and later DVD allowed fans to view and re-view the dark proceedings.

The result is a stunning picture that has audiences laughing out loud at the squeamish scenes—and discovering bizarre details with each subsequent viewing. From the maze to the ominous décor of Native American artifacts to the blood flood out of the elevator shaft, every detail in the film adds to the final effect.

Performances are brilliant, with Kubrick holding his actors in frieze and tableaux as is his wont. The awestruck expressions of Scatman Crothers and Shelley Duvall are priceless, but Nicholson goes into the stratosphere of the movie that made him a living parody of himself.

Whether snidely talking to his wife, smugly chatting with the dead hotel staff, or scaring the bejesus out of his son with his “father knows best” demeanor, Nicholson is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

We came back to the movie again, after six or seven previous viewings, after the documentary Room 237 whet our appetite for another stay at the grand hotel.

We don’t need to see fake Moon landing theories, nor Holocaust references, to tell you Kubrick gives us a resonant movie, complete in its effects—from lugubrious music to startling photography and growing menace.

The Shining leaves the smell of burnt toast—and we never heard a better description of ghostly emanations made by Scatman Crothers in a seminal scene. Every time you smell burnt toast you will look over your shoulder after seeing this movie.

Movie fans will enjoy reading Ossurworld’s views in MOVIE MASHUP and its companion book MOVIES TO SEE –OR NOT TO SEE. Both books are available in ebook and softcover at

Room with a Point of View




Shining stars Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd, and Shelley Duvall

Room 237 may be the greatest way to advertise a film yet devised, despite the fact that no one associated with the movie had any interest in participating.

As a documentary, Room 237 is a clever pastiche of Kubrick movie clips to explain the motives and history of the creepy ghost adventure to end all campfire horror legends. It was Kubrick’s shining example of esoteric storytelling.

Kubrick was never one to kowtow to the material of the equally famous, whether Vladimir Nabovkov, Arthur C. Clarke, or Stephen King. The genius of Kubrick took the material and molded it into his own vision, making it original and distinctive.

The Shining as a novel was not nearly as scary as Kubrick made this ghost story. Stephen King took historical tales about the Stanley Hotel and gave it a fictional lynchpin. Kubrick improved on the maze of the story. Indeed, there was no plot-central maze in the King book.

This movie has caught the imagination of many film aficionados who see Kubrick making statements about the Holocaust, Native American massacres, the corrosive effects of war, or even the 1969 Moon landing. The experts seem to miss the point that Kubrick could have made a movie about any those issues (and he did on occasion).

Kubrick films were always events, happenings, challenges, and stunning achievements even when they failed. He belongs in that pantheon with Orson Welles, as a filmmaker too big for his film canister.

Room 237 fascinates and amuses. It is like reading the annotations on your favorite book. We realized about half-way through the documentary that we had to see The Shining again.


 If you like to read about movies, try MOVIE MASHUP and/or MOVIES TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE. Both books are available on