Paul Naschy (Bernard de Fossey, the Devil, Death), Daniela Giordano
(Catherine), Monica Randall (Madeleine), Juan-Luis Gallardo (Jean
Duprat), Ricardo Merino (Nicolas Rodier), Antonio Isbert (Pierre
Burgot), Antonio Iranzo, Antonio Casas, Julia Saly, Eduardo Calvo,
Loretta Tovar, Eva Leon
Director:Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)
Screenplay: Jacinto Molina
Photography: Miguel F. Mila
Music: Maximo Barattas
Production Company: Ancla Films (Italy), Anubis PC (Spain)
theatrical release: None known
release on Video City; Spanish release on Manga
prints: Two videos were used for review: the old domestic Video
City release and the recent Manga Films PAL video from Spain.
City Productions actually offered a few variants of the same film--one
version is even missing a throat slicing sequence! Apparently
Video City would produce a stock amount of tapes whenever orders
would mandate it, and this caused a variety of different variants.
Purportedly one version also contains contains a notable reel
break. The best tape from this company that I have seen has been
the one without the copyright notice over the beginning credits
(one of their earliest dupes of this film): the picture is crisper
and free of any transfer ghosting, and contains the full throat
slicing sequence. Unfortunately, even this tape is not perfect
as it contains a temporary glitch at the burning-at-the-stake
sequence that appears to involve all Video City variants.
question involves cover art. There is a possibility that an earlier
Video City version of this film was released with different cover
art, using a Spanish ad mat artwork meant for the rougher "nude"
version of the film. I remember once seeing such a cover in a
video rental store, but it could also have been manufactured by
some enterprising and artistic employee when the original was
public domain dupers, Sinister Cinema, released their own version
of this film, apparently mastering directed from the 35mm element,
but we suspect the source is no different than Video City's. One
other thing should be mentioned in regards to the variants of
the film. Contact sheets and stills from this film clearly indicate
two versions of this film: a "softer" version where
the tortures were handled without nudity and the "harder"
version where full nudity was shown. Even here, though, we must
be careful, for some of these photos hint at sequences that contain
much more nudity than are to be found even the harder version.
Were these mere publicity stills and nothing more? Probably, as
there is not even the rumor of any other stronger version than
the commonly known nude one.
contents of the Spanish Manga tape are the same as Video City's,
though I did notice that at least one sequence was absent: a musical
cue that is found in the English-dubbed version. Importantly,
the Manga tape is widescreen, lending a substantial difference
in effect, as the pictorial compositions are quite impressive
when seen in proper aspect ratio (or at least its close approximation).
Naschy and the director of photography, Miguel F. Mila, used the
wide canvas well, positioning figures and objects at the sides
of the frame as well as within its interior, and these side elements
are lost in the American full frame release. The colors of the
Manga tape are more dimensional and lifelike, though the images
are not as sharp as the original U.S. NTSC tape.
The Vellavision DVD from Spain released in 2009, in the Pal format,
blows all other versions out of the inquisitor's dungeon. Superior
clarity, color and widescreen. Unfortunately, no English options,
though these have surfaced in the "gray market."
publicity photo, it seems, that was also used in an illustrated
magazine of INQUISICION. In all versions of the film, Giordano
is covered in this scene.
itself easily to the strongest of cinematic exploitation, being
used, for the most part, as a pretext for showing very attractive
females in naked bondage undergoing horrors from monsters who, not
surprisingly, happen to be men. Yet even the most notorious films
of this ilk cannot but help manage to make some statement on the
inhumanity of the time. There are, after all, those torture sequences
that must be explained, the villainy that must be exposed and
defeated. Infamous pictures, like THE MARK OF THE DEVIL,
present the traditional--and easiest--view: the evil, inflexible
Church abusing innocents. Witches, in such films, tend to
be figments of the fanatical imagination of religious zealots
who pursue and torture their female victims with unwholesome
relish and eyes glittering with barely repressed lust. Even worse,
some of these zealots know that their female victims are innocent,
but, impelled by sexual sadism, they inflict their tortures nonetheless.
Paul Naschy's take
on witch-hunting, and the period of the Inquisition that gave
witch-hunters their greatest resources and rationale, is
different, however. With his sympathies for villains made evident
by the films he has scripted and starred in, Naschy makes
his witch-hunting inquisitor, Bernard de Fossey, a more
complex figure. Indeed, Naschy's inquisitor emerges a sympathetic
soul toward the end of the film, a victim of love and
the machinations of a woman, a person of stubborn dedication unimpressed
by feminine charms except for the one special woman who vanquishes
his will and subverts his duty.
the first time that Paul Naschy directed a film, more out
of necessity than anything else. Of course, he scripted and
starred in the film as well. As usual, Naschy spent time researching
his subject matter. The story is based on a factual occurrence
in medieval France, in the region of Carcassone, where a magistrate
fell in love with a suspected witch; the lovers wound up being
burned at the stake. Naschy's research doesn't end here.
As the film evolves we get an educational primer on the witchery
and witch-hunters and Satanism through the characters' dialogue.
Exposition is buttressed by dimensional authenticity. We are invited
to see real furnishings of the time, real tableware, real torture
implements. The legendary book of witchery, the Malleus
Maleficarum, was borrowed from a museum. Daniela Giordano, who
plays Catherine, even had to pick up a real skull with real maggots
crawling over it (you can easily see the distaste in her face
as she does so). Such attention to detail and realism pays off.
INQUISITION is clearly one of the most authentic looking of Naschy's
films, and its authenticity singles it out with stunning relief
from the cadre of other witch-hunting films of the time.
those who have accused Naschy of misogyny, the story spans out
to underline a woman's need to achieve some measure of power in
a male-dominated society. Women's secondary role in society
is continually on display. Women are seen carrying out the duties
of the day: sowing, preparing food, serving food, while the men
talk and eat away. "Women are weaker," De Fossey claims at the
first dinner he attends after his arrival in the town of Pyriac. They
are ones Naschy and his two comrades in witch-hunting will concentrate
on, for they, according to the theory, are the easiest conduits
for Satan's work. Victimized or ignored, women cannot but help
to seek some measure of equilibrium and justice in such at
atmosphere. With the Church involved in their persecution,
they naturally seek out the antithesis of God, Satan, who
when an angel rebelled against God and, punished with banishment
from heaven, set up his own domain of power and influence. It
is to Satan that desperate women seeks retribution and relief,
and it is to Satan that Catherine goes when her lover, Jean,
is ambushed and killed.
So in INQUISITION
witches exist, though there supernatural powers are illusory.
(In the film there is a hint, however, that the plague is
the work of the Devil, but that is another subtext.) There is
even a unexpected poetry and tenderness in their impressions of
Satan's gifts, highlighted by Catherine's wonderment and joy at
"flying beneath the moon" during the witches' Sabbath. But Catherine's
plot against the inquisitor is misguided. We later find out her
accusation is wrong: De Fossey is innocent of her lover's
death. She becomes as much deluded as De Fossey, though they serve
Salvation for this
duo, if it exists, arrives through affirmation of moral guilt.
As the flames engulf the repentant De Fossey and the proud Catherine,
it is Catherine who screams, finally and pathetically
made aware that Satan is powerless to save her or, worse,
has abandoned her. De Fossey, meanwhile, raises his supplicant
eyes to heaven, the flames at his feet not just punishing him
for his sins, but cleansing his soul, if such be the will of God
he serves. The ironic pathos of the ending, and the evident
humanistic and understanding spirit of its creator, the scriptwriter
Naschy, comes as another surprise to those who have merely
expected base exploitation and nothing more.
Naschy and co-star
Daniela Giordano play well off each other. Giordano, who
had starred in many Euro-productions, was chosen primarily because
of the partial Italian financing of the film and her understanding
of Spanish. Her no-nonsense approach is welcome, particularly
when Naschy films falter on occasion by starring actresses
who are vapid, doey-eyed counterpoints to the stronger men about
them. Determined and serious, Giordano ably lets Catherine become
more than a match for De Fossey. When she gazes back at him, it
is a gaze of insolence that Giordanro pulls off with naturalness.
Giordano thinks highly of the movie and her role, and commented
recently in the book 99 DONNE: "The film ruined me, because it
made me fall in love with the cinema, which previously had been
just a game: for the first time I understood what 'professional'
means, but I also suffered a lot, because from then onward I kept
waiting for good script which just didn't come."
It is with
the torture sequences that many a witch-hunting film is judged
by horror aficionados, and here Naschy does not come up short. The
screams of the naked or half-naked women reverberate in a dungeon
that is a sadist's dream, harboring, as it does, an authentic
paraphernalia of torture instruments aged by the patina of centuries'
old blood and suffering sweat. The renowned nipple clipping scene
is a wincer, but also apparently some sort of crowd
pleaser, as Naschy used forced nipple removal again in HOWL OF THE
DEVIL. Yet even these purely exploitative elements, and the abundant
nudity of the film, do not dilute the serious tale that Naschy
relates, nor do they lessen the sad moral of the story. A carefully
crafted film, in many respects impeccable in intent and execution,
INQUISITION is one of the glories in the cinema of Paul Naschy,
and a high point in the cinema of the perverse.
clean-shaven Naschy directing the film.
nice to take a break with your female co-stars