Dr Tarr’s Torture Dungeon (1973)

AKA The Mansion of Madness

Director:Juan López Moctezuma .
Starring.Claudio Brook, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman. Marin LaSalle. Susana Kamini. Mexico. 1h 39m.

The concept of this darkly macabre path into insanity is simple, the inmates have taken over the asylum. This  vision of madness come from the king of the unusual, the film is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The System of Dr Tarr and the Professor Feather.  A reporter (Brook) and his entourage have been invited to 19th century asylum hidden deep in the woods, their guide promises easy access but they are confronted by two armed guards, eventually they are let in and split up, the reporter takes one route while his beloved is chased through the woods and abused. After meeting various groups of people acting out wildly in the forest he meets the megalomaniac who’s running the whole affair and soon realises that the inmates have taken over and the prisoners are the redundant staff. In the absence of medical care they are left to their own crazy devices and act out their basest fantasies and have incredibly surreal urges.

As the reporter is guided through the asylum, each new room seems to have its own breed of psycho, from peasant girls running around dancing, sexual sadists performing demonic rituals or just people posing as furniture, it’s reminiscent of Dante’s epic journey through hell, each layer becoming darker and harder to handle, the guide for this adventure is just king of the nutters with a unreal plan.

It’s not hard to connect this to any of the works by Jodorowsky, as his El Topo (1970) film was part produced by the director Juan Lopez Moctezuma and the pair have a lot in common. There is an active surreal presence in every scene, the viewer is bombarded by outlandish and disturbing actions and realities. There is this constant babbling of people, something mimicked in Aleksei Yuryevich German’s  Hard to be a God (2013) remake.

Technically the film has some technical issues, the DVD I managed to find seems to be a total copy of the VHS, which isn’t a problem for me, I adore this look and feel, but it’s easy to see that the camera was often propped up and is often adjusted mid scene. Strangely even though the film is a Mexican production it was filmed in English and re dubbed  for Mexican audiences!?  The oddly framed shots add to the uneasy feelings and seem to be part of the feature, as if the film was arranged by an un unsettled individual and who knows.. After seeing this and other works from Moctezuma…. They are generally far out but gorgeous travesties to watch.


Rating 7/10

RHoly Mountain (1973), Alucarda (1977), Mary Mary Bloody Mary (1975), Messiah of Evil  (1973), Hard to be a God (2013)
L – Asylum films,
A – A-Z Surreal Films .Vol1
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