Saturday, October 28, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel)

Film: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

There are times when it seems that filmmakers have far too many good potential names to use for a movie and they throw them all onto the same thing. Such appears to be the case with the awesomely-named The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, which was also released under the names The Blood Demon, The Castle of the Walking Dead and The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, a literal translation of its German title Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel. Honestly, any one of these titles would have had the sort of pull to bring in mid-‘60s horror fans in droves. Why not save a few of these for some other movies?

Regardless, we’ll being with Count Regula (Christopher Lee), whose name is almost certainly supposed to evoke connections to Count Dracula. Regula is being executed by quartering because he has been found guilty of killing 12 virgins in an effort to gain immortality. We flash forward to the film’s present, a few decades after Regula’s dismemberment and meet our main characters. These are Baroness Lilian von Brabant (Karin Dor) and Roger Mont Elise (Lex Barker), a lawyer. Both have been given invitations to a castle that was (naturally) the ancestral home of Regula.

Both hope to gain some information by going to this castle. The Baroness believes there is a large inheritance awaiting her while Roger hopes to find some information regarding his mysterious parentage. Through some misadventure, the Baroness, her maid Babette (Christiane Rucker), Roger, and a highwayman disguised as clergy named Fabian (Vladimir Medar, but voiced by Klaus W. Krause) end up in the same carriage. As they approach the castle, their coachman suffers a fatal heart attack when he sees all of the corpses hanging from trees and littering the road. And then, someone drives off with the carriage and the women, leaving Roger and Fabian behind.

A lot of where this is going to go is not going to be very surprising or shocking to you, of course. Naturally, Regula is back from the dead thanks to the work of his undead servant Anatol (Carl Lange). Just as you might expect, Regula was one virgin’s blood away from becoming immortal—his success up to this point is what gives Anatol unlife and allows himself to be brought back. He needs the blood of the 13th virgin, though, who is naturally going to be the Baroness, since it was her mother who escaped him a few decades previous. As for Roger, well, he’s the son of the man who tried, convicted, and executed Regula the first time around, which means his presence is all about revenge.

This is a 1967 Gothic horror movie, so we’re not going to get a great deal that isn’t wholly expected. The fact that our main characters appear to be fated to come to this castle together isn’t a surprise. The fact that Regula appears to need the Baroness’s blood specifically for his ritual is not going to be a surprise. The ending isn’t much of a surprise, either, and because of the era and the type of movie it is, it’s pretty easy to figure out exactly where all of this is headed. The audience is here for a few scares, some dead bodies, and a skeleton or two in chains. And, to be fair, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism delivers.

The filmmakers would have you believe that this is based on the Poe story “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but aside from the German title, there’s not much connective tissue here. There is, in fact, a snake pit as well as a pendulum, but that’s where the similarities end. There’s not a thing in Poe’s story about an undead count who makes an immortality serum that stops working in the presence of a crucifix (because magic!) or any of the rest of this.

It's also a film that was clearly and obviously made with a cast that spoke different languages. Lex Barker and Christopher Lee are speaking English, but everyone else is very clearly dubbed a la spaghetti Western, almost certainly from the German—the director and most of the cast are German, after all.

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism is innocuous and fluffy, and it doesn’t come close to living up to that lurid title. A direct translation of the German would have been a better choice here, because this kind of feels like false advertising.

Why to watch The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism: The name, obviously.
Why not to watch: It’s misnamed.


  1. That is a cool title. Plus, I do like Christopher Lee.

    1. It would be hard for anything to live up to this title, but this doesn't come close.