Robert Bloch’s “Torture Garden” Part 2: “Terror Over Hollywood”

The next thread on Atropos’s shears belongs to Miss Carla Hayes, an aspiring young actress who is willing to do anything to get to the top. In the beginning of her “vision” she is Lounging in her nightgown at her little apartment, which she shares with another young actress, Millie, who is running behind in her preparation for a date with Mike Charles who apparently is “not the kind you keep waiting”. “This dinner date could be important,” she continues, “you know what it could mean; going to the right places, meeting the right people…”
“I know,” Carla replies, “it’s the only way a girl can get ahead in this town.”
Millie continues to fuss over her dress for the evening, which is in desperate need of ironing but she needs to take a shower. Carla nonchalantly offers to iron the dress for Millie so she may take her shower and finish up her toilet, but once alone she places the iron directly on said dress, burning it beyond repair.

Later, as poor Millie hides in the bedroom leaving Carla to “handle it”, she steals her date and thus any opportunity Millie might have had arise from the encounter. This is probably the worst thing Carla does in the whole film, but I believe it is to stress her willingness to step on anyone who comes between her and her ultimate goal of stardom. Eventually, this includes Mr. Charles whom she forgets about as soon as they arrive at a hot Hollywood hang out called “Danny’s”.

Carla Hayes schmoozes with Bruce Benton.

Upon her arrival, she is introduced to actor Bruce Benton, who is impressed with her knowledge of Hollywood minutiae and her appreciation of his extensive film career. He gets her a part in his latest film and they become friendly, but she is troubled by some peculiarities in his behavior. After witnessing what should have been a fatal assault on Mr. Benton, she demands to be let in on his secret. To the chagrin of his associates he inadvertently lets slip a few hints, which she puts together that reveal a secret society of Hollywood big wigs who never seem to age and whose stars never seem to fade. She continues to press the point and demands to be let into this elite club until they relent and let her in on the secret and Carla finally learns what it truly means to be part of the Top Ten.

“Tales in a Jugular Vein” (1965), which featured the original story “Terror Over Hollywood”.

“Terror Over Hollywood” was first published in 1957, in the magazine Fantastic Universe, and later appeared in the Robert Bloch collection “Tales in a Jugular Vein” in 1965. For the most part, this segment follows the original storyline fairly closely, save for a few name changes and a minor plot change. In the story, Carla is known as Kay Kennedy, and she befriends producer Eddie Stone, not Bruce Benton, who decides to slowly let her in on the secret society of the Top Ten. Stone is in the film, but only as a semi antagonistic side character who disapproves of her being so nosey about Benton’s private life. Although the ending is essentially the same, the original story unfolds a little better than it does in the film, with the final revelation carrying a bit more punch.

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