Paul Naschy, 1976
Starring: Paul Naschy, Daniela Giordano, Mónica Randall
Bernard de Fossey, a witch hunter, arrives at a plague-ridden town in the countryside with some colleagues. He quickly falls for a nobleman’s daughter, Catherine. Meanwhile, he is off busily accusing, imprisoning, torturing, and executing suspected witches. When Catherine’s fiancé is killed, she believes the inquisitors are responsible and makes a pact with Satan to get the ultimate revenge on de Fossey and his friends. She uses their developing romantic relationship to manipulate and damn him, learning too late that things may not be as they seemed…
Spanish horror maestro Paul Naschy wrote, directed, and starred in Inquisition — it was actually his directorial debut. Seeing as Naschy made so many different types of horror films — he starred as Dracula, the Wolfman, a mummy, a Gilles de Rais-type medieval Satanist and murderer, a hunchback, voodoo master, and more — that it was only inevitable that he eventually tackled the witch hunting subgenre that rose to popular in the mid-‘60s with films like Witchfinder General, Mark of the Devil, Cry of the Banshee, and more.
This is a surprisingly good entry in the Naschy canon. While I typically recommend his films only to Eurohorror fans, anyone who enjoys witch hunting movies should check it out. For this script, Naschy actually did quite a bit of research and based his story on a real tale from medieval France. A magistrate/inquisitor fell in love with a woman suspected of witchcraft. They were found out and burned at the stake. As with Vengeance of the zombies, there are few dialogue heavy scenes where the characters explain witchcraft and satanism in detail. I can’t decide if these are interesting or simply too much, but if you’re a newbie to the witch hunting sub-genre or have never read anything about the medieval witch hunts, you may find it fascinating.
Though the atmosphere isn’t quite as effective as some of his other films, there are still some interesting sequence, including one where Catherine picks up a skull that is actually covered in maggots. As with Vengeance of the Zombies, there are hellish dream sequences depicting Satan; in one particularly nice moment, he drinks blood from a human skull. Naschy, of course could not miss out on the chance to appear in a second role as the Prince of Lies.
While it may not have the force of atmosphere of some of his other film, it does manage to capture a realism not usually found throughout his work. Inquisition also doesn’t shy away from depicting the poverty and general misery of medieval life, particularly during a plague epidemic. There is a fair amount of nudity and toplessness in this film, but several shots of topless female plague victims is somewhat disturbing. There are also plenty of effective torture scenes and based on these, I think this has probably the best use of effects out of any Naschy film. There’s also a lot of nudity. Though much of it is mixed with violence (the torture scenes), there’s a more tranquil shot where four naked women are splashing out in a lake.
As with Cry of the Banshees, this is a rare witch hunting film from the period that depicts actual witches. In Inquisition, they are depicted as primarily benevolent until the wholesale torture and suspecting witch killing drives them to further action, which includes making pacts with Satan. Satan does actually deliver vengeance for Catherine, but in the end he is disappointingly unable to vanquish the powers of God.
While it steals some plot elements from other witch hunting films, such as the doomed central romance from Witchfinder General, Naschy’s de Fossey is sympathetic. His love for Catherine humanizes him, though there can’t be a Naschy film without at least one female character falling in love with him.
There are some decent appears from genre actors, including Mónica Randall (The Witches’ Mountain), Ricardo Merino (Trauma), Tony Isbert (Rest in Pieces), and Eduardo Calvo (House of Psychotic Women). Naschy regular Julia Saly (Night of the Werewolf) is particularly lovely and leading lady Daniela Giordano (Gently Before She Dies) has decent chemistry with Naschy during their scenes together.
This is one of Naschy’s most violent films and is relatively on par with the infamous Mark of the Devil, though Naschy’s effects are cheaper. There is a nice scene of nipple removal and some other mayhem. Between Lucio Fulci, Burial Ground, Inquisition, and others, the ‘70s were a rather unpleasant time for nipples in Italy and Spain. It comes recommended for all fans of witch hunting movies and Eurohorror in general. There is no English-dubbed or subtitled DVD available, though you can find Inquisition online.