As far as the Jackson family goes, we all know that Michael Jackson was by far the most successful member, and in 1983 he released what is easily the greatest Halloween music video ever: Thriller. He also lent his vocals to another horror-themed music video, Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me". But what about The Jacksons? Most people these days aren't aware that they too released a music video for their song "Torture", and in addition to its creeping tone, it was filled to the brim with a variety of elements taken straight from some kind of surrealist horror film.
Today, I thought it would be fun to take an in-depth look at this music video, because while the lyrics are about how hard a relationship break-up can be, the music video appears to be about how horrifyingly hard it was to maintain your sanity during a shoot in the eighties. Trust me, you're in for a a real treat with this one, so let's begin:
It's always a good sign when a music video kicks off with one of The Jacksons wearing a silver-studded sleeveless mesh shirt while standing in front of a background that looks like it came straight off of a Trapper Keeper design. After some explosions occur behind his glasses, we're treated to a montage of dark skin-suit dancers with bright white wigs, explosions, and then a pair of aliens who may or may not be wearing gimp suits. Yep, a mere 30 seconds in and I'm already sold.
And it only gets better.
What did I tell ya? We have two of the Jackson brothers rocking out on their respective instruments. On the left, we have Tito rocking out on a red guitar with bright sparkles that's shaped like a star while wearing a shirt showing his adoration for the speediest superhero on the planet, The Flash. On the right, we have Randy playing the keytar (a staple of any truly great eighties music video) and dry-humping it while cross-faded with a mohawk lady who is snapping her red novelty witch finger nails to the music even though she's been handcuffed for some reason. I'm guessing for fashion crimes. (heyoooo!!!)
Jackie is then directed by some kind of mutant with a variety of eyeballs, ears, and noses strewn about his face, to take a walk towards a nearby temple. He stands in front of the temple, and its all-seeing eyeball ignites an explosion, and the gates open so he can walk inside. Once in the temple, Jackie makes his way across a walkway that appears to double as a humanoid barbeque grill, as there are many more of those alien gimp creatures reaching up towards him from underneath. So why is he even bothering to walk through here? Because, there's some badly scarred guy who's like a mix between Frankenstein's Monster and Darkman standing behind a giant pipe organ. Who wouldn't want to talk to that guy, right!?
Sadly, he'll never get to talk to that guy, because the walkway was a trap, as the floor gives way and Jackie finds himself in front of yet another eyeball, and this one seems to have sucked him into a room filled with giant eyeballs!
You'd think a member of The Jacksons would be used to having this many eyes on him by now, but nope, he's completely stressed out by all these eyeballs. He's so stressed that he rips a pupil right out of one of the eyeballs and the slime from it gets all over his hand. He slowly raises his hand up to his face and screams in terror for...
Now his own hand is watching him too! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!! Horror!!!! HORROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I've seen some pretty amazing moments in music videos over the years, but I can say with 100% certainty that I've never seen anybody rip out a slimy pupil from a giant eyeball, and then have it become one with their own hand until now.
Now the Jackson brothers find themselves in some kind of ice crystal palace. It looks something like Superman's fortress of solitude, only much darker and with a whip-wielding woman who's wearing a chainmail mask. But yeah, other than that, it's just like Superman's crib.
While Michael Jackson does sing on the song, he didn't appear in the video apparently due to some scheduling conflicts, but that didn't stop the producers from having him appear anyway. They actually rented a wax dummy of Michael from Madame Tussaud's museum and tossed it into the video! It's used briefly in several scenes, but it didn't fool audiences, and when you pause the video, it's super obvious.
Because everything is making so much sense, I'm sure you know what's gonna happen next, right? If you guessed Jackie would head up a staircase at the behest of the chainmail whip woman and end up inside a sphincter, you guessed right! He finds himself trapped in this pink sphincter room as people from all sides are trying to push their way in. Naturally, the next thing we see are a bunch of yeti snow women dancing in front of the group, and then a random princess dancing in front of that pipe organ from earlier. Oh, and there's another one of those eyeballs in the room with her now too. If there's one thing we know about this "Torture" music video, it's that it had one hell of a budget for oversized novelty eyeballs.
Then our dancing princess sits in front of the eyeball and soon morphs into ol' chainmail face. That'd be fine 'n all, but then this madness happens:
Yep, moments after laughing her ass off, chainmail woman's face explodes into blinding light right before our eyes, and then it immediately cuts to the Jacksons who proceed to remove their sunglasses and........ they no longer have eyes!? Damnit! I was just making a point about how the budget for eyeballs in this video was astounding, and now they pull that shit on me? I'm starting to think the process of reviewing this music video is living up to its name, but we must press forth, because I'm sure everything will make sense when it's all said 'n done, right?
Well speaking of pressing forth, that's exactly what Jackie is doing. Now he's making his way through a corridor towards, yep... you guessed it... the princess sitting at the pipe organ. Only problem is, now there are giant blades popping out of the walls as he makes his way forward. Remember, Jackie, only the penitent man will pass!
He does make his way to the princess, but just as he does, her eyeball throne moves out of the way and he falls all the way down into a deep pit and lands on some huge bouncy spider web. Surely this bodes well for him.
Oh yeah, before we move on, I should mention that while all this is happening to Jackie, Tito is having one hell of a time performing his guitar solo. It's just him, a cave, some crystals, and his amazing shiny red star guitar getting their groove on like there's no tomorrow. He's so into it at times, I'm pretty sure he would've ended up writhing on the ground uncontrollably with his guitar if it wasn't for that wall holding him up. Combine that with the fact that it looks like he's needed to urinate badly during the entire solo, and it makes for one amazing sequence. Honestly, the only way they could've possibly conveyed more love and emotion between Tito and his guitar during this scene is if it started raining in the cave.
Back to Jackie, he's found himself tangled up in a spider web, and it turns out it was that damned chainmail face lady who tricked him into falling into it in the first place. Soon enough, some humanoid spider women crawl onto the web, but rather than go for Jackie, they pounce on some other nameless poor bastard. In a matter of seconds, he's turned from a human into a pile of bones.
And speaking of bones, chainmail face starts whipping some of the other skeletons in this room and then this happens:
If you weren't already in love with this music video, you goddamn better be after witnessing that. You just got an eyeful of Ray Harryhausen inspired stop-motion skeletons dancing together! The production value of this video just skyrocketed! And just what does Jackie do upon seeing these dancing skeletons?
Jackie simply stares in utter astonishment as they reflect in his shades. You know, I wasn't relating to Jackie very much before this point in the video, but I gotta say, I'm sure I would react the exact same way if I saw those skeletons dancing around: frozen in place with my mouth agape in pure awe.
Next, all hell is seemingly breaking loose. The yeti ladies are swarming, a hungry spider is advancing on Jackie, the skeletons are now doing back-flips and head-spinning breakdance moves until crumbling into a pile of bones, and various members of the band are repeatedly punching through a thin sheet of ice and/or glass for no apparent reason. And the maestro behind all of this madness is, of course, the whip-wielding devil woman with chainmail covering her face.
She continues to whip the skeletons and spiders, apparently commanding them to do her bidding, but she didn't expect Michael Jackson's famous gleaming crystal glove to pop up out of nowhere and grab her whip in midair. That makes two of us. As soon as it grabs the whip, the glove starts a chain reaction of sparkling orange particles which travel up the whip and completely cover ol' chainmail face. When the glitter subsides, the princess from earlier is in her place. So, I guess his glove broke some kind of spell that turned her into a chainmail wearing psychopath? Whatever... works for me.
The skeletons appear to be relieved that they no longer have to dance, as the revealing of the princess woman literally makes one of the skeletons heads spin. It then goes in for a quick kiss and she cracks a smile. Awww. Shortly after, lightning strikes and we see all five Jacksons (well four of them, plus the wax dummy of Michael) posed in front of a doorway. Gotta love how they have Michael's wax dummy statue posed there, as if he's some kind of action figure with a "karate chop action arm!". For the record, I would totally buy a Michael Jackson figure with karate chop action arm.
And so, having accomplished.................... something, our heroes activate their powers by disintegrating into sparkly gold dust and returning to the realm of the Trapper Keeper designs whence they came. Godspeed, Jacksons. Godspeed.
Now it's your turn to watch The Jacksons official "Torture" music video, and then you can chime in with your thoughts below:
See? I told you this would be one hell of a treat. People look back on old music videos and say, "They don't make 'em like that anymore!", but this is one of those cases where that saying really does sum it up. They don't make 'em like that anymore, and I'm honestly not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Why? Because I don't know what the hell I just watched.
I do know two things:
1) The tune is nice 'n eerie for the season and should be a staple in any Halloween music playlist.
2) Skeletons can moonwalk like a mofo.
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