Torment (1950 British film)

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Torment FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by John Guillermin
Written byJohn Guillermin
Cinematography Gerald Gibbs
Edited by Robert Jordan Hill
Music by John Wooldridge
Advance Productions
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 3 February 1950 (1950-02-03)(London UK)
  • 10 November 1950 (1950-11-10)(US)
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Torment (also known as Paper Gallows) is a 1950 British second feature [1] thriller film directed by John Guillermin and starring Dermot Walsh, Rona Anderson and John Bentley. [2]


It was the first sole director credit for John Guillermin. [3] He later called the film "a lemon". [4]


Brothers Cliff and Jim Brandon are a successful writing team specializing in murder mysteries, but Cliff and Jim are almost as disturbed as some of the characters they have created. While researching their latest novel, one of the brothers commits murder, simply to experience the thrill. He then attempts to frame his secretary Joan for the crime. His reason this time is personal: both brothers are in love with Joan, but she prefers one over the other. The saner of the two brothers races against time to save Joan from the gallows and to bring his sibling to justice.



Guillermin had made several films for Adelphi as a producer. One day he saw an elaborate set being torn down and offered Adelphi that he would write a film in three weeks and shoot it in three weeks if he could use the set. They agreed. It did take Guillermin three weeks to write it but six weeks to film. [5]

Guillermin was paid £3,250. According to one writer it was with this film that "Guillermin’s talent for clear, compact, efficient direction became evident: his tautly-shot thriller remains the strongest crime drama in the Adelphi catalogue." [6]

Dermot Walsh says that during filming an electrician fell twenty feet from railing down to the floor "but Guillermin wouldn't hold up production, he just went on shooting." [7]


The film was released in the US in March 1951 as Paper Gallows. [8]

The film was rejected for distribution by the main British cinema circuits but Guillermin found the movie useful in launching his career. [9]

Critical reception

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "Cliché-ridden script, overplayed characters, but a feeling once or twice that the director had some elusive Higher Thing in mind." [10]

Kine Weekly wrote: "The picture contains rather a lot of talk during the early stages, but above-average acting and photography enable it to transcend initial shortcomings and gallop to a gripping climax. Cliff's derangement is acceptable, and validity heightens the cleverly thought-out thrills. Exciting theatre, smoothly translated into screen terms, it should keep most audiences on the edge of their seats." [11]

TV Guide wrote, "the story here is nothing new, but the direction is fresh and original. Taking this simplistic plotline, Guillermin manages to inject some good suspense into a modestly budgeted feature. Walsh, Bentley, and Anderson play their roles well and play against one another with skill." [12]

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  1. Chibnall, Steve; McFarlane, Brian (2009). The British 'B' Film. London: BFI/Bloomsbury. p. 102. ISBN   978-1-8445-7319-6.
  2. "Torment". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  3. Vagg, Stephen (17 November 2020). "John Guillermin: Action Man". Filmink.
  4. Pratt, Vic; Lees, Kate (2020). "CHAPTER 3 EARLY DAYS WITH ADELPHI FILMS". In Guillermin, Mary (ed.). John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies. Precocity Press. p. 25.
  5. Guillermin, Mary (2020). "CHAPTER 5A LOVER OF FEMININITY IN ALL ITS FULLNESS". In Guillermin, Mary (ed.). John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies. Precocity Press. p. 94.
  6. Pratt, Vic; Lees, Kate (2020). "Chapter 3 Early Days with Adelphi Films". In Guillermin, Mary (ed.). John Guillermin: The Man, The Myth, The Movies. Precocity Press. p. 34.
  7. McFarlane, Brian (1997). An autobiography of British cinema : as told by the filmmakers and actors who made it. Methuen. p. 591. ISBN   9780413705204.
  8. BRIGADOON' LISTED BY METRO FOR FALL: Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson Will Play Leads in Screen Version of Musical Hit Of Local Origin By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. 12 Mar 1951: 20.
  9. Lees p 38
  10. "Torment". The Monthly Film Bulletin . 16 (181): 218. 1 January 1949 via ProQuest.
  11. "Torment". Kine Weekly . 394 (2222): 22. 1 December 1949 via ProQuest.
  12. "Paper Gallows Review". Retrieved 16 April 2014.