Paul Naschy’s Inquisition (1977)

Posted: January 29, 2021 in Uncategorized

My friend and fellow writer Stephen D. Sullivan and I have been doing watch-alongs of Paul Naschy movies, and our latest viewing was INQUISITION. This was Naschy’s directorial debut, and an assured one it is. He plays a quietly fanatical inquisitor whose descent on a small French town unleashes a chain reaction of denunciations, sexual jealousy, power plays, desperation, murder and torture. It’s very much part of the trend triggered by WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), but typified by MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) of witch-hunt films whose exploitation brief was to play up the sex-and-torture angle. That’s certainly the case here, in some decidedly unpleasant scenes, but fortunately Naschy’s primary interest lies elsewhere.

His character is in a pretty direct line of descent from the villainous clerics of the 18th-Century Gothic novel, as he succumbs to the very temptations he condemns. His opposite number, played by Daniela Giordano, follows a really interesting arc, as she turns in desperation to Satanism and witchcraft as the only possible hope for salvation for her self and her loved ones. Thus, the Inquisition, through its atrocities, creates the very thing it seeks to suppress.

Giordano’s drug-fuelled hallucinations of Sabbaths are deliriously surreal, and the viewer is placed in the position of fervently hoping that these dreams are real, and that she actually does have supernatural powers. At the same time, the presence of a mournful surgeon as the lone voice of rationalism lets us know that Giordano isn’t really going to be able to bring the powers of hell down on Naschy and his fellow inquisitors.

If you think this is going to end badly, you’d be right (in terms of Gothic antecedents, this is more Lewis than Radcliffe, right down to the lurid excesses), but the bleak ride is an involving one, and the film stick to its thesis all the way to the final freeze-frame.

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