The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism

The movie “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (alternative title: “The Blood Demon”; German: “Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel“) is a German horror film produced by Constantin-Film (Munich) and directed by Harald Reinl, which is based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” was shot in the summer of 1967 and was released in German cinemas on October 5th, 1967. In 2020 the film was scanned and restored in 4K in cooperation with moviemax as well as Christos Pateludis and his company Filmscan & more.

Synopsis of the film

1806: Frederick Count Regula is sentenced to death and quartered as atonement for the bestial murder of 12 virgins at his castle Andomai in the Sander Valley.

1841: A one-legged ballad singer delivers a mysterious request to the solicitor Roger Mont Elise and the young Baroness Lilian of Brabant: Count Regula asks them to set off for the disreputable Sander Valley in the Midlands, where Lilian is to come into the inheritance of her deceased mother and Roger is to receive clues that may clear up his mysterious origin. Roger finds a companion in the bizarre Father Fabian, who shows him the way to the legendary ‘Blood Castle’.

On the way the two men can thwart an attack by masked riders on Lilian and her maid Babette, who are travelling to the same destination. He offers the two ladies his protection, but cannot prevent them from being kidnapped shortly before their arrival. In a knight’s hall beneath the ruins of Count Regula’s castle, Roger and Fabian meet the intimidated women again. They find themselves in the company of a sinister man, Anatol, who announces the imminent appearance of Count Regula. Fabian, who turns out to be a mugger, but now joins forces with Roger out of fear, does not succeed in defanging the invulnerable Anatol.

Trying to escape, Roger, Lilian and Fabian get into a vault where Anatol succeeds in raising the dead Count in a black mass. He announces that he only needs the blood of a 13th virgin, namely Lilian, to gain eternal life. While Regula and Anatol try to frighten Lilian to death with snakes and other horrible monsters, Roger is facing execution with a razor-sharp pendulum…

The Genesis of the film

Edgar Wallace and Karl May producer Horst Wendlandt plays a decisive role in the creation of the film. After the failure of his last Karl May film „Winnetou and Old Firehand“, which opened in cinemas in December 1966, the suddenly completely insecure businessman reconsiders all his plans. For 1967 there are actually two more ‘Karl May‘ in preparation, namely „In the Death Valley“ and „Winnetou and Captain Kaiman“.

In February 1967 a crisis meeting takes place with Horst Wendlandt, the leading heads of his Rialto-Film production, his house distributor Constantin-Film and director Harald Reinl, at which they cannot be convinced by Reinl of the continued success of the enterprise and decide on a temporary ‘end’ of the Winnetou films. But there are already legally binding contracts for „Winnetou and Captain Kaiman“, for which Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Vladimir Medar and Harald Leipnitz, but not Pierre Brice, have already signed.

While Harald Leipnitz, who is to play the role of Captain Kaiman, will now instead be allowed to hunt the „Blue Hand“ in the Edgar Wallace thriller of the same title, Lex Barker, Karin Dor and Vladimir Medar are proposed a substitute project, which is already mentioned as a possible alternative solution during the crisis meeting and very quickly finds approval. It is agreed that Constantin, usually only responsible for the distribution, will also be the producer this time; the production will be taken over for a lump sum by Bavaria, whose studios will also be used for the interior shots. Rialto, that is Horst Wendlandt, remains in the background.

The project “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” is initiated by the successful film director Harald Reinl. Inspired by the box office success that has been achieved in German cinemas in recent years with foreign horror film productions, he is convinced that he will be able to create a new wave of success after the Edgar Wallace and Karl May films: “The horror film was born in Germany. From here it went around the world; one after another there was an American, an English, a Japanese and finally an Italian horror film wave. The genre was not cherished here for decades. We must first recreate for ourselves the horror we once taught the world.”

The idea of making a Edgar Allan Poe film came to Harald Reinl through the success of Roger Corman‘s films „The Fall of the House of Usher“, „Pit and the Pendulum“ and „The Masque of the Red Death“. However, the plan was not to make a faithful film version of Edgar Allan Poe‘s story ‘The Pit and the Pendulum‘. Screenwriter Manfred R. Köhler‘s treatment of the original story was therefore very carefree and generous.

The intention to make a real horror film which is tailored for an adult audience is thwarted by the production management already during the shooting by demanding that the film be made in such a way that it can be released for cinema-goers aged 12 and older.

As a result, many revealing or harsh scenes are not shot at all or are cut from the final version.

Although this intervention from above generates slightly more income than a release only from ages 16 or even 18, it later leads to corresponding criticism that speaks of a “horror film for children”. The range of comments goes from “laughable instead of scary” to “a little Spessart and a dash of Wallace” when the final result is later shown in the cinemas. Still, a good part of the journalists who are present during the shooting are quite impressed by the eerie buildings in the Bavaria Studios in Munich-Geiselgasteig, which are garnished with real vultures, snakes and spiders.

One reporter describes with a lot of detail a scene in which Lex Barker lies tied to the ground under the sharp pendulum and is asked by her, shuddering, if he is not afraid. At this moment, director Harald Reinl says: “Well, now we let the rats come in” and Lex Barker just says: “Really funny, isn`t it?”

Due to bad weather conditions for the outdoor shots, additional shooting days are necessary. This deprives Karin Dor of a unique experience. She has to cancel her invitation to the “Royal Performance” in London, where she would have been introduced to the Queen of England on the occasion of the world premiere of the new James Bond film „You Only Live Twice“ in which she plays an important role.

A small consolation for her is the remark of a journalist who wrote about her: “When you see Karin, you want to live four times”.

Cinematographer Ernst W. Kalinke also has bad memories of the outside shoot: Shortly after the start of shooting, when the scene with the ‘ghost riders’ was shot near Detmold, for a risky camera shot he dares to get too close to the horses that had gone wild and is ridden over by them. With multiple broken bones and severe bruises  he is taken to hospital, but resumes his work only 17 days later, heavily plastered.

This tenacity compels so much respect from Lex Barker that in future he will only speak of ‘Iron Cameraman Kalinke’.

Original title: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel

Director: Harald Reinl

According to the story “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe

Screenpaly: Manfred R. Köhler

Actor & actresses: Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange, Vladimir Medar, Christiane Rücker, Dieter Eppler, Klaus W. Krause, Franziska Liebing, Horst Naumann, Bruno W. Pantel, Herbert Weicker

Producer: Erwin Gitt

Production Manager: Wolfgang Kühnlenz

Assistant director: Charles M. Wakefiled

Cinematography: Ernst W. Kalinke, Dieter Liphardt

Sound: Hans Joachim Richter

Editing: Hermann Haller

Filmarchitect & Buildings: Rolf Zehetbauer

Props & Decoration: Gabriel Pellon

Equipment: Werner Achmann, Georg Attlfellner, Erich Kogler

Camera & technical department: Kurt Bruckner, Li Erben, Joachim Gitt

Visual effects: Erwin Lange

Special effects: Theodor Nischwitz

Costume designer: Irms Pauli

Costumes: Anton Dissertori, Anni Graf

Masks & Make-up: Gerda Bublitz, Erich L. Schunckel

Music: Peter Thomas

 

Production company: Constantin Film

Year of production: 1967

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Country: Germany

Language: German

Synchronization: English

Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Czech, Serbian, Croatian, Italian, Catalan, Chinese

Film locations: Bavaria Studios (Munich, Germany), Detmold (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany), Isartal (Germany), Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Germany)

Length: 84 Min

Ratings: FSK 12 (GER), M (USA), X (UK)

Aspect ratio: 1.66 : 1

Sound Mix: Mono

Resolution: 4K (new scanning 2020)

More titles:

German: Die Wassergrube und das Pendel, Schloß Schreckenstein (Working titles)

English: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, The Blood Demon, Castle of the Walking Dead, Pendulum, The Snake Pit, The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, The Torture Room, Torture Chamber, Blood of the Virgins

French: Le vampire et le sang des vierges, Vampire – La malédiction du château d’Andomai, La fosse aux serpents

Spanish: El tormento de las 13 doncellas

Italian: La tredicesima vergine

Portugiese: Sangue das Virgens, O Passado Tenebroso

Denish: Skrækborgen

Swedish: Skräckens blodiga borg

Finnish: Tohtori Sadismin kauhukammio

Greek: I epanastasis ton vrykolakon, O pyrgos ton zontanon nekron

Russian: Колодец и маятник

Japanese: ペンダラム

Film label: M-Square Classics

Distribution: UCM.ONE

Premiere: October 05, 1967

Theatrical release USA: May 21, 1969

Limited Deluxe media book: October 23, 2020

Limited media book: November 27, 2020

VoD start: November 27, 2020

The outdoor shots were mainly realised in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Isartal near Straßlach, Fürstenallee near Schlangen and in the Teutoburg Forest near Detmold.

For the busy Christopher Lee, his short guest appearance in German film is rather insignificant; but years later he still remembers it not reluctantly: “The conditions were first-class: Harald Reinl directed, his wife Karin Dor also acted in the film – one of the top stars in Germany who had also appeared in British films – and of course Lex Barker. At that time he was one of the top leading actors in European film, for the Germans the ideal embodiment of the Aryan beauty, a Siegfried-type. One of the most popular stars in post-war Germany. He was at the height of his fame when I received the interesting offer to work with him, a top director and one of the most prominent leading actresses.

An offer I accepted without hesitation. He was at the height of his fame when I received the interesting offer to work with him, a top director and one of the most prominent leading actresses. An offer I accepted without hesitation.”

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” turns out to be an economically halfway satisfactory project. It recoups its costs and makes a small profit, but to create a new wave, the box office results are not good enough after all.

Crew and Cast

Director: Harald Reinl (* July 08, 1908 Bad Ischl / Austria, ✝︎ October 09, 1986 Puerto de la Cruz / Teneriffa / Spain)

Studied law after the Matura and received his doctorate. An enthusiastic mountaineer and brilliant skier, he is employed by mountain film pioneer Arnold Fanck as an extra and double in several of his films. He then worked for several years as an assistant to Leni Riefenstahl before he made his first film as a director, „Bergkristall“ in 1949. As one of the commercially most successful directors of the post-war period, he feels at home in all genres from „Heimatfilm“ to war films to comedy, drama and in the 60s also crime thriller and western. Co-inventor of the German Edgar Wallace and especially Karl May wave.

From 1954 to 68 married in second marriage to Karin Dor. His life ends tragically when he is stabbed to death in his house by his alcohol-addicted third wife.

Music: Peter Thomas (* December 01, 1925 Wroclaw / Poland, ✝︎ May 17, 2020 Lugano / Schwitzerland)

Grows up in Berlin. Besides studying classical music, his time as a pianist in numerous clubs in the four-sector city has left its mark on him, where he got to know and appreciate the different musical tastes of the occupying powers. Comes to television via radio at the end of the 50s and shortly after that to film.

Quickly becomes one of the most successful and busiest composers in the German-speaking world. Many now legendary TV and film soundtracks such as „Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion“ were written by him. In addition, he also wrote numerous music albums and advertising music. Remains active until today.

Lex Barker as Roger Mont Elise (* May 08, 1919 Rye / New York / USA, ✝︎ May 11, 1973 New York City / USA)

Coming from a wealthy home, he begins studying civil engineering after college, but abandons his studies to try his luck at the theatre. From 1942 to 45 he is a soldier in World War II, having reached the rank of major when he is honoroubly dismissed due to a serious head injury. His Hollywood career gets off to a good start after a few small roles by impersonating Tarzan, but he never gets further than the position of a B-picture star.

In 1957 he goes to Europe: first to Italy, where he portrays the hero in numerous „cloak-and-dagger“ films; from 1961 he shoots mainly in Germany, where he became a superstar in the cinema of the 60s in his role as Old Shatterhand. From 1970 the role offers become less and less, so he returns to America where he is not able to make a real comeback.

Karin Dor as Lilian von Brabant (* February 22, 1938 Wiesbaden / Germany, ✝︎ November 06, 2017 Munich / Germany)

Her real name is Kätherose Derr. Already takes acting and ballet lessons during her time at grammar school and was an extra in several movies. Harald Reinl is made aware of her in 1954 and cast her in small roles in two of his films. In the same year she gets married to the almost 30 years older director. She soon becomes a popular and busy leading actress mainly in comedies as well as „Heimatfilms“ and music films, mostly cast as the gentle naive.

In the 60s she becomes one of the faces of the Edgar Wallace series and similar productions (Dr. Mabuse) as the innocent damsel in distress and harassed heroine. She shoots a James Bond film and for Alfred Hitchcock; but her breakthrough as an international star does not quite happen. Since the 1970s she works mainly for television and theatre.

Christopher Lee as Frederick Graf Regula (* May 27, 1922 London / UK, ✝︎ June 07, 2015 London / UK)

After college, in 1940, he joins the British Air Force where he serves in a special intelligence unit. Trains as an opera singer after the war, but then turns to theatre and film. Plays only small roles for many years before he becomes a specialist in scary and horror films from 1957 onwards with his famous portrayal of Count Dracula and other malicious characters such as Dr. Fu Man Chu.

From 2001 onwards, he becomes known to a younger audience through his role as the magician Saruman in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. One of the busiest actors in film history with over 280 credits. In 2009 he is knighted as Sir.

Processing material (A report by Walter Potganski)

“Elaborate digitisation” has been the magic word for some years now when it comes to counteracting the “disappearance of cultural heritage”. It’s all about visibility: what is publicly available remains present. For „The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism“ (1967) the challenge was to digitize and edit film material in 35mm format. We were able to execute this with Cristos Pateludis, a film restoration specialist who himself developed some tools for the various phases of the process. Together with Reno Bornkamm, he is the owner of Pateludis Video Transfer and was responsible, among other things, for the 4K-scan, light determination and colour correction. Usually these steps are carried out in the presence of the DoP and the director, which of course was not possible in this case. My experience in the technical field of film restoration goes back more than 40 years and so Cristos Pateludis and I were responsible for what is called the “film look”.

As source material we had a 35mm intermed negative as well as a broadcast copy (made especially for TV stations at that time). Film scanners or telecine are the devices used to convert film material into video signals or data packets. There are different methods to accomplish this. A fundamental functional difference is whether each frame of the film strip is simultaneously captured by a flat sensor or whether the sensor converts the image line by line into electrical signals. In case of real time scanners, the film runs through the scanning-machine with a normal projection speed, devices that work with slower speeds due to a higher resolution also exist. In our case, a 4K-scan was made (also serving for material backup).

After that, a further processing step followed, in which it is determined how the colours, the contrast, the brightness, i.e. the “look” of the film should ultimately look like. This step usually takes place shortly before the completion of the film and is called colour grading. This is where the light determiner, also called colourist, comes into play. In the past, this step was mainly about defining colours and lighting moods, or setting how the film image should be displayed on the screen when scanning for television. Today, however, special colour grading systems are available, whose possibilities for intervention go far beyond the adjustment of gamma curves, contrast and brightness. Profound image manipulations are possible. Colour grading today includes functions from effects post-production and film restoration. That is why it is sometimes referred to as “Creative Colour Grading” when a system is used that offers such possibilities.

At this point the opinions differ. Due to the multiple “intervention possibilities” a movie is often so smoothed or unnaturally reproduced that it has nothing or hardly anything to do with the original movie as the moviegoers had seen it back in the days. We have largely avoided this image manipulation and used these tools very carefully. It’s a balancing act: on the one hand to minimize picture noise and scratches, but on the other hand to preserve the film grain, the typical qualities of the film. Some of these work steps are illustrated in a photo gallery on the DVD.”

Additional information

Shooting time: 16 May to 7 July 1967; premiere: 5 October 1967; distributor: Constantin; length: 85 min. (2333 m); format : 35 mm, 1.66 : 1; colour: Eastmancolor, sound: Mono. The film was shown in France as “Le vampire et le sang des vierges” (cinema release: 05.03.1969) and in the USA as “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (cinema release: 21.05.1969).

Original German trailer (Remastered)

Comments on the film

“The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism”, with its charm, at times involuntarily funny interludes and a flair close to that of the old Edgar Wallace films, creates a nostalgic feeling of bliss in the viewer, almost like looking at old children’s photos”. (horror-page.com)

“The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism – an important and unique example of German film history!” (Fantastique International)

“…but the strange mixture of Mario Bava-inspired staging and the atmosphere of Wallace’s crime thrillers is hard for a B-movie fan to escape and develops its own charm.” (senseofview.de)

“The film is more entertaining than most of the contributions to the Edgar Wallace series and doesn’t need to hide behind the English Hammer films visually either.” (highlightzone.com)

“The stay in Munich was great fun and I was pleasantly surprised by what I had seen of the film so far. The colours are first class, the sets excellent and the acting performance more than adequate. The film is perhaps not as bad as I had feared after all”. (Christopher Lee)

International artwork

On October 23, 2020, UCM.ONE and moviemax will bring a piece of German cinema history with “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (German original title: “Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel“) in a digitally high-quality restored HD version as a deluxe mediabook limited to 1,200 copies (1x Blu-Ray, 2x DVD, 1x CD ) in the trade. The film can be found there in German and English language and also with German, English, French and Spanish subtitles. From November 27, 2020 a limited mediabook (1x Blu-Ray, 1x DVD) and a vinyl album limited to 500 copies of the soundtrack by Peter Thomas, which is available for the first time, will be available with red vinyl:

Content of the deluxe collector’s edition, limited to 1,200 copies and numbered

Disc 1 (Blu-ray, ca. 84 min):
– Re-scanned unabridged movie in HD
– Audio commentary on the film with Gerd Naumann, Christopher Klaese & Matthias Künnecke
– Original cinema trailer & teaser trailer
– Reconstruction – slideshow (before/after/approx. 10 min)

Disc 2 (DVD, ca. 81 min):
– Unedited cinema film digitally remastered
– Audio commentary on the film with Gerd Naumann, Christopher Klaese & Matthias Künnecke
– Original Cinema Trailer & Teaser Trailer
– Reconstruction – Slideshow (before/after/approx. 10 min)

Disc 3 (Bonus-DVD, ca. 110 min):
– Super 8-film version part 1: The death pendulum – The castle of horror (ca. 16 min)
– Super 8-film version part 2: The snake pit of Count Dracula (ca. 16 min)
– TV reports:
— A Grusical is filmed – WDR 1967 (2,48 min)
— News from the film – ZDF 1967 (4,02 min)
— UFA newsreel 1967 (1,28 min)
— ZDF Turntable – Interview Karin Dor (4.01 min).
– Location search in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (7,30 min)
– Audio interview with Karin Dor (ca. 40 min)
– Pictures from the shooting (slideshow, ca. 10 min)
– International Artwork Gallery (Slideshow, ca. 7 min)

Disc 4 (Soundtrack-CD, ca. 52 min):
– Soundtrack (music composed, arranged and conducted by Peter Thomas)

PLUS 36-page booklet with great photos and background information!

Release date: 23 October 2020

Included audio tracks and subtitles: DVD: German audio track, DD 2.0 (mono), English audio track, DD 2.0 (mono); Blu-Ray: German audio track, DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 mono), English audio track, DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 mono); DVD & Blu-Ray: German subtitles, English subtitles, Spanish subtitles. All subtitles have been significantly improved or newly created.

Content of the limited media book

Disc 1 (Blu-ray, ca. 84 min):
– Uncut movie in HD rescanned
– Audio commentary on the film with Gerd Naumann, Christopher Klaese & Matthias Künnecke
– Original Cinema Trailer & Teaser Trailer
– Reconstruction – Slideshow (before/after/approx. 10 min)

Disc 2 (DVD, ca. 81 min):
– Unedited cinema film digitally remastered
– Audio commentary on the film with Gerd Naumann, Christopher Klaese & Matthias Künnecke
– Original Cinema Trailer & Teaser Trailer
– Reconstruction – Slideshow (before/after/approx. 10 min)

PLUS 36-page booklet with great photos and background information Including print “Illustrierter Filmkurier” from 1967

– Uncut cinema version
– Film music by Peter Thomas (including Edgar Wallace and Karl May adaptations)
– After a short story (The Pit and the Pendulum) by the master of the macabre: Edgar Allan Poe

Release date: November 27, 2020

Included audio tracks and subtitles: DVD: German audio track, DD 2.0 (mono), English audio track, DD 2.0 (mono); Blu-Ray: German audio track, DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 mono), English audio track, DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 mono); DVD & Blu-Ray: German subtitles, English subtitles, Spanish subtitles. All subtitles have been significantly improved or newly created.

Soundtrack (Limited vinyl edition & digital)

A-side:
1. Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel
2. Der Moritatensänger
3. Mysteriöse Einladung
4. Karfreitagprozession
5. Kutschfahrt in Sandertal
6. Ungewöhnliche Reisegesellschaft
7. Der Leichenwald
8. Erinnerungen
B-side:
1. Schloss Anomie
2. Liebende in Bedrängnis
3. Graf Regula
4. In den Katakomben)
5. Eigenartiger Geistlicher
6. Das Pendel des Todes
7. Blut von dreizehn Jungfrauen
8. Flucht aus dem Schloss (Finale)

The LP is limited to 500 pieces and comes with red vinyl (180g), is machine numbered with a sticker and contains a printed inner sleeve. Futhermore the album will be released digitally.

Release date: November 13, 2020

The soundtrack will be released worldwide for the first time by UCM.ONE on the label M-Square in cooperation with Schacht Musikverlag. A big thanks goes to Walter Potganski, who was able to locate the old original tapes as source material and thus made it possible to reconstruct the music titles used. Until shortly before his death on May 17, 2020, the legendary film composer Peter Thomas accompanied the reconstruction.

News

Deluxe Mediabook “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (M-Square Classics) now on sale

“The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” by Harald Reinl is considered a special treat among connoisseurs of horror movies, but also among Edgar Wallace and Karl May fans. UCM.ONE releases in cooperation with moviemax on the film label M-Square Classics on October 23, 2020 the classic in a strictly limited and numbered deluxe mediabook of…

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First screening of the restored version of “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” at the Filmmuseum Munich

On Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 9 pm, the Filmmuseum Munich, in cooperation with moviemax, presents the newly restored version of the feature film “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (Original German title: “Die Schlangengrube und der Pendel”) by Harald Reinl from 1967 exclusively and once on a big screen. Horror films or just horror elements are…

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The film “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” will be released as Mediabook by UCM.ONE

The film “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (German: “Die Schlangengrube und  dass Pendel”) by Harald Reinl with Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange and Vladimir Medar is currently being digitally restored by UCM.ONE in collaboration with Moviemax. In addition, extensive bonus material will also be collected so that the film can later…

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