Making use of picturesque (but conveniently local!) Fire Island locations,
Roberta Findlay delivers a typically unerotic…but worse, strangely depressing anomaly of adult cinema by the appropriately maudlin title of A
Woman’s Torment (which she quips in the extras “is the story of my life!”)
Like a less trippy (and non-Decadent inspired) Mnaisdika, Findlay brings a
morbid, uncomfortably introspective vibe to this grotty tale of mental illness, murder and 70’s style “suburban roulette”.
Crusty old Geraldo lookalike Jake Teague (still in shape and overly tanned for
someone his age) is a psychiatrist who appears to lack self awareness. His
homely wife (Jennifer Jordan) doesn’t get any real pleasure out of their carnal
relations and is starting to get all feminist about that (not that you can blame
During a party at their friends the Compton’s house, it comes out that not only
is old Jake having an affair with the wife (the rather housewifely Crystal
Sync), but that they have an unbalanced house guest, going only by “Karen”
(Tara Chung). Everyone in this love quadrangle knows about the affair, only
Sync’s hubby Don (Jeffrey Hurst) seems to get off on the fact.
And worse: when “Karen” finds out that both men want her locked away in an
institution, she breaks and enters into a rather nice beachside resort home
and makes herself at home (as weird electronically sampled audio yells her
name over and over at varying pitch).
Unfortunately, the lineman (Michael Gaunt) drops by to work on the place, and
seeing her acting like a cross between R. Kern regular Lung Leg and a
gibbering, perpetually eye rolling Cleopatra, decides to take advantage of the
At first she actually encourages this, enjoying what Black Sabbath once
referred to as “a bit of finger”, but when he gets all hot and bothered and
wants something for himself, she flips out and murders the guy!
A crusty bag lady/neighbor from down the way (Marlene Willoughby) drops by
a few times to pay a visit, and proves so nosy and annoying that Chung does
the audience a favor this time by offing the shrew (to the accompaniment of
the film’s best line: “I thought you wanted to see the rest of my house!”)
The only real prurient interest in this one (outside of crazy Karen, anyway)
comes from a pair of unrelated boaters (the female of such being one Clea
Carson, who unlike the rest of the cast, isn’t exactly hard on the eyes) who
get it on before having the misfortune of deciding on a picnic in that very
same house (“they won’t mind, it’s probably deserted!”) – their second attempt
at relations in a stranger’s bed results in yet another “Karen killing”.
Our ethics-challenged headshrinker takes the opportunity of a private visit to
get his piece of Chung’s action, and almost gets away with it (and giving a
false diagnosis of sanity on her to boot!)…until he decides to tell the clingy
crazy he’s splitting. Zap, another murder.
Some ersatz feminist statement on females taking pleasure being OK, but
males expecting reciprocation being evil? Well, in the hands of some other,
more obnoxious femme filmmakers, yeah, possibly. But coming from the lens
of Roberta Findlay? Nah. It’s just weird, off kilter exploitation that
can’t decide whether it’s psychological horror or hardcore.
Extras include a commentary track for those inclined, a 16m interview with
“Michael Gaunt (Dattore)” and a 22m Q&A from a recent screening with
Findlay herself, who tells of star Tara Chung being totally bald under that
rather 60’s wig (!) and running off with the gaffer (who’s since become a
prominent television political comedy show’s producer!) mid-shoot.
I’d seen this one before, but in a much muddier, abbreviated print – Vinegar
Syndrome gives this one a lot more than just a spit polish and restores extra
footage on the “erotica” end that simply wasn’t there last time I saw the film –
and naturally, all of that comes as a huge improvement.
Moody, dark and atmospheric – if it weren’t hardcore (and saddled with actors
and actresses this limited and odd looking), this could easily have been a well
known, even celebrated 70’s cult film at the darkest edges of the genre (think
The Witch Who Came Out of the Sea).
As it is, A Woman’s Torment is a weird, if memorable experiment with a few
decent boffing sequences amidst a dark, confused narrative peopled with a
Fellini-like freakshow of bad actors and odd lookers…and a whole lot of grim
Worth a look.