"The Pit and The Pendulum" (also released for a short time under the title of "The Inquisitor"), is a 1991 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poes short story of the same name.
Directed by Stuart Gordon, this film is a closer adaptation of the original story than the classic 1961 adaptation starring Vincent Price, although the film does incorporate elements of other stories by Poe, most notably "The Cask of Amontillado".
The year is 1492, and the Spanish City of Toledo is in the grip of terror. Friar Tomas de Torquemada (Lance Henriksen), the Grand Inquisitor, leads a holy mission to rid Spain of all sinners and heretics, which he and his cronies approach with murderous and sadistic glee.
The opening scene features Torquemada directing his henchmen to open the tomb of a long dead nobleman, whose dessicated corpse is then informed it has been found guilty of heresy and is sentenced to receive 20 lashes. once the sentence has been carried out, the bones are ground up and Torquemada has them placed in an egg timer. When he informs the noblemans wife that due to her deceased husbands supposed heresy, their fortune and lands are being confiscated by the church, she denounces him as a thief, which earns both her and her children a trip to the inquisitions torture chambers.
Later, as Torquemada presides over the noble womans execution, a young woman in the crowd begs him to show mercy, and as soon as he sees her, Torquemada becomes enthralled by her beauty, which leads him to have her arrested for witchcraft. Over time, Torquemada finds himself becoming more and more lustful towards her, so he offers her a bargain, if she will submit to his lustful desires, he will release her husband.
Throughout the film, Torquemada is seen dabbling with a design for a new torture device, the eponymous "Pit and the Pendulum", consisting of a razor sharp blade which swings from a pendulum and slowly lowers down to slice a victim positioned below it in two, and a pit hidden under a trap door below the victim, which opens to reveal the pit is filled with spikes.
Torquemada explains that he requires the creation of new and more vicious torture devices as people become used to the same tortures, so therefore he has to make sure that the threat of torture remains terrifying to sinners and heretics.
Co stars in this film include Oliver Reed, making a cameo appearance as a cardinal sent by the Pope to investigate the rumours that Torquemadas tortures are becoming too depraved for the Vatican to stomach, and Jeffrey Combs as Francisco, a cleric in the employ of the Inquisition who takes some pleasure in watching others tortured and killed.
The film is a character driven piece of supernatural horror, although there are elements of dark humour in there, one particularly chucklesome example of this is when a witch is being taken to execution and Francisco apologises to her that they didnt have time to torture a full confession out of her before she was executed.
Although little more than a "direct to video" film, which never had a cinema release proper (it was shown at a few film festivals), and suffers from some bargain basement special effects, it is nonetheless a very good film, with Henriksen putting in a brilliant performance as the fanatical and evil Torquemada.
I give it 8 out of 10 sacrificial lambs.