Inquisition (1978)/ The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)
These are very similar films. Both feature a Grand Inquisitor who's, obviously, a cruel religious zealot who tortures and condemns supposed witches. But, deep down, he's still a man who has needs, and subsequently falls victim to lust, which is his undoing.
In Inquisition, the Witchfinder General is Paul Naschy who is tempted by Daniela Giordano. In The Pit and the Pendulum, the Inquisitor is Lance Henriksen and the object of his lust is Rona de Ricci.
Enjoy the shows!
Paul Naschy, undisputed king of Spanish horror cinema, is Bernard, a Witchfinder General. He's visiting a hamlet besieged by the plague.
"The malignant one tends to use women for his dark deeds." Yes, the disease had to be work of witches in the service of satan.
(wolf whistle) Woohoo - topless dead women with open sores.
Bernard has his work cut out for him. The town's crops have failed, "the women can't conceive, and the men can't sire". Men live in fear - and it's up to Bernard to rid the community of the witches and sorcerers who are clearly at work.
Next we are introduced to a large cast of women characters that becomes impossibly confusing to keep the names straight. We meet them in quick succession, and my brain hurt trying to remember who was who.
Have no fear. I will go through it slowly...
Catherine (Daniela Giordano) is the main character. She's the lovely daughter of the mayor.
While at the mayor's dinner table, Bernard catches the eye of his comely daughter. But she's secretly and hopelessly in love with another dude - Jean. This could mean trouble.
Madeleine (Mónica Randall) is Catherine's best friend from childhood. She was an orphan, and her family took her in. She owes much to Catherine.
Madeleine knows about Catherine's backdoor affair, and wants dearly to see her happy. She knows that arrival of the Inquisition means persecutions are coming. Still, she visits a local witch to concoct a spell to ensure Jean will propose to Catherine.
Probably a bad idea.
Elvire (Julia Saly) is Catherine's pious sister. To her left is the despicable one-eyed house servant, Rénover whom you will grow to hate.
PIERRIL DENISE, AVRIL, and ODILE
A look at Catherine's happy-go-lucky clique before the shit hits the fan. Denise (Jenny Llada) is the cooper's daughter. Avril and Odile are strong willed, and pretty free spirited in the love department.
And so it begins. Asshole Rénover makes up all kinds of hocus pocus garbage about a couple of the young women: Avril and Michelle. Bernard's right hand man believes every word, of course.
Odile and Pierril are then incriminated by a little girl, who's much more creative than Rénover; she describes a horrific spectacle of witchcraft to the Inquisitors who are only too quick to take it as gospel.
The first on the rack is Odile. Bernard tries to get her to admit that she has lain with the devil's dragons and conjures tempests, but she won't give in.
Pierril is not near as strong of will. Within moments she's confessing to being a witch, making love to demons, and even implicates poor Odile! Both girls are burned at the stake.
Denise gets probably the roughest treatment of all. Hard to watch.
Catherine learns that Jean has been stabbed to death. She refuses to eat and becomes ill.... which naturally prompts Bernard to assume she's possessed.
That night, she receives a vision from Jean. He beseeches her to find his murderer. Catherine vows to Madeleine that she won't rest until she finds his killer... and make him pay!
And it just so happens that Madeleine knows a certain witch who can make it happen.
Next thing you know, she's face to face with satan. I know it looks cheesy, but, for me, this scene was creepy as f**k.
Scumbag Rénover tries to rape Elvire, but Madeleine is there to fend him off. In the skirmish we learn that Rénover's motive for condemning these ladies is because he couldn't have them.
Of course, this little incident will certainly inspire Rénover to turn Elvire and Madeleine over to the Inquisition. He makes a B-line to snitch to Bernard, but Bernard actually wants to keep this under wraps. Why? Well....he's smitten by Elvire's sister.
Catherine learns from Beelzebub that Bernard is Jean's killer. So, she seduces him; basically making him her bitch.
When Rénover then decides to squeal to the other Inquisitors, they wonder why he hadn't told Bernard first. "I did," says Rénover. "But he said to keep it quiet."
Hm. The other Inquisitors now start to wonder about ol' Bernard. A mutiny is in the works.
Rénover decides to assault Elvire again, and ends up killing her. Madeleine, again, rushes to her defense and stabs Rénover. Unfortunately, she makes the all-too-common mistake of turning her back on the supposed killer, who, predictably revives and kills Madeleine before dying himself.
In the end, the Inquisitors will have none of this hush-hush business, and brings Catherine before the judge. Not only does she freely admit to being a witch, but she implicates Bernard. The movie ends with both Catherine and Bernard dying at the stake.
Inquisition is not the cheesy B-movie I thought it would be. It's well directed, well acted, and there's an impressive attention to detail. Yes, it is very dense, with lots of characters, but if you commit yourself, you'll enjoy it. It's not a fun popcorn flick that you can half-watch while checking Facebook on your phone. I was thoroughly surprised, and glad I watched..
That being said, whatever became of Avril?
The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)
The baker, Antonio (Jonathan Fuller), and his pious wife, Maria (Rona de Ricci). As we've learned, a happy couple in an Inquisition movie is in for some trouble.
The Pit and the Pendulum is loosely based on Poe's story, with a few of his other works blended in. It's directed by Stuart Gordon, the guy behind such classics as Castle Freak (1995), Robot Jox (1989), From Beyond (1986) and Re-Animator (1985) - so, you know you're not in for a faithful Merchant-Ivory adaptation.
So, Antonio is busy selling his lousy bread in the streets, when he and Maria are swept up in a crowd witnessing the execution of an accused witch.
When a child is also brought execution, Antonio says hell-no to that and tries to intervene. Of course, this does nothing but create a gigantic cluster f**k.
Antonio is smacked down like a little bitch, and Maria rushes to his side. This inspires the wrathful intervention of none other than Lance Henriksen as Torquemada.
When he takes a look at lovely Maria, his loins burn like a raging fire. To squelch his sinful lusts, he orders his soldiers to arrest Maria for being a witch!
This is clearly the role Henriksen was born to play and he doesn't pull back. When Maria is brought before him, the sense of terror and dread is palpable. Some heavy shit is about to go down.
Torquemada's first words: "Take off her clothes."
The scene is simultaneously awkward and erotic. Torquemada gets all hot and bothered, while poor Maria is disgraced.
I can't help but wonder whatever happened to this actress. A few years prior to this, Rona de Ricci was in the forgettable The Penitent (1988) with Raul Julia and Armand Assante. The Pit and the Pendulum was her second and last film, before fading into obscurity.
Stuart Gordon regular, Jeffery Combs as Francisco the surgeon, performs the inspection. He's looking for things like a "third nipple for the devil to suck" or "the mark of satan".
Conveniently, a mark is found (from a pinch from the douche behind her).
In prison, Maria is befriended by a real witch, Esmeralda (Frances Bay). Esmeralda is tortured to death by the Inquisition, but still appears Jedi-style to Maria in her dreams.
Meanwhile, Torquemada orders his servant to flagellate him for the lustful thoughts he's having about Maria. He just can't get that chick out of his head!
And who's doing the flagellating? None other than Mark Margolis (Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, and a kabillion other things).
Maria's baker husband shows up to rescue her. He single handedly beats down 20 plus fully armored and armed conquistadors armed with only a ladle. He's John Wick, Batman and Jason Bourne all rolled into one. One commenter on IMDb asks, "Why was the baker a super hero?" I don't know the answer to that, but it's one of the most ridiculous scenes I've ever witnessed.
And look who shows up: Oliver Reed. I can't help but be reminded of him in the Ken Russell film The Devils (based on a Aldous Huxley novel). He's here to deliver bad news to Torquemada - no more Inquisition, no more torturing.
Of course, Torquemada will have none of that nonsense. He burns the papal letter, then kills Oliver Reed Cask of Amontillado style.
I'll spare you the details of how things finally go down. In summary, Antonio is tortured by the titular pit and pendulum device, but escapes only to wage a one-man-war against Torquemada's army (John Rambo would be proud. Torquemada drew first blood.)
Maria is thought to be dead (via tongue excision) but resurrects and casts a curse upon Torquemada. Lots of people die, then more people die, and some more.
In the end, Francisco releases the happy couple - and they go back to baking bread.
For a low budget movie, this felt impressively well crafted. Aside from moments of absurd silliness, there's a good movie here. Henriksen's Torquemada is nothing short of incredible as is the smoking hot de Ricci'. It could have used more nudity, more gore, and a little less cringeworthy swashbuckling, but overall it's a damn good film. Oh, and, it has to be said....
"NO-body expects the Spa... "