As a small child, Jacinto Molina became heavily captivated and inspired by the classic Universal horror movies of the ’30s and ’40s. So much so, in fact, that he would later craft his own series of bloody horror outings in his native Spain under his better-known alias, Paul Naschy. All but begetting the Spanish horror boom of the late ’60s and ’70s, Naschy’s more celebrated character would be that of a tormented lycanthrope named Waldemar Daninsky, whom his creator (and portrayer) continued to torture onscreen more than a dozen times over a span of 36 years in-between his many varied contributions to horror and cult filmdom.
But by the time Naschy directed his first feature in 1976 with Inquisición (hence known by its translated title, Inquisition), his ensalada days were essentially behind him at this point. The horror genre craze which had kept both he and his many contemporaries in the field working steadily for nearly a decade had already started to wane, and their subsequent output would tend to be infrequent and ‒ quite often ‒ disappointing. Fortunately, Paul Naschy’s Inquisition does not fall into the latter category: it’s just as wild and wooly as one would expect it to be, even if it really doesn’t seem too terribly sure about what its supposed to be doing half of the time.
In keeping up with his other films, Naschy once more relies on the element of torture here. In fact, this one is all about the torture ‒ be it of the body, soul, or mind. As was usually the case, our favorite barrel-chested bodybuilder takes the lead, this time taking a cue from recent horror flicks such as The Conqueror Worm and Mark of the Devil to bring us a jaw-droppingly weird tale of a witch-finder general of the worst kind: one who actually believes in what he’s doing. Or at least, that’s what Naschy’s Bernard de Fossey (he couldn’t call him Robert de Fossey, else Bob Fosse might have sued) wants everyone to believe.
Deep down inside, poor Bernard’s soul is just as plagued as the (surprisingly lush) barren countryside where people are dropping like flies. But no amount of torture will ever compare to his own personal demon: the act of lust, which he happens to feel an awful lot of towards former Italian beauty contest winner Daniele Giordano. It’s all the Devil’s doing, naturally, thanks to his many brides in the area, all of whom soon find themselves at de Fossey’s mercy (or lack thereof, as it were). So, while everyone either drops dead from either famine or disease, Bernard ensures Satan’s mistresses die of shock from having their nipples yanked off, etc.
It’s a real classy kinda flick, needless to say. But, torture isn’t all Inquisition has going for it. There’s also a lot of weird surrealistic imagery, especially as our lead actress decides the only way for her to get back at Bernard’s inflicted horrors is to sign a pact with El Diablo (as played by Paul Naschy, naturally, under a giant goat head mask with glowing red lights for eyes) himself! Additional delights include some of the best bad dubbing dialogue ever, and a heap of female nudity ‒ including one glorious shot where four actresses climb out of a lake in their birthday suits to show us a stark contrast between broadlooms and blindings.
Speaking of stark contrasts, a simple glance at two of the included special features for this Mondo Macabro release will no doubt show you what a difference a nice fresh HD scan of a 41-year-old low budget horror movie can make. In the case of Inquisition, the film hasn’t been seen on home video in the US since its one and only (and now very rare) analog videocassette release. That right there makes Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray a most welcomed upgrade, and the visual quality of this 1.85:1 presentation looks quite crisp and clear all around. The image is a little glossy in some places, but that’s more than likely attributable to the source elements.
Inquisition‘s main audio selection is an LPCM 1.0 Castilian, which is offered up along with some optional English subtitles. Next up is the LPCM 1.0 English audio soundtrack, which is where all of the great bad dubbing I mentioned can be heard (and then heard again after you’ve rewound it to make sure they actually did say what you think they said). A third audio selection ‒ this time an audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn from NaschyCast ‒ begins the special features section of this Mondo Macabro Blu-ray, which includes a filmed introduction to the film by the late Sr. Naschy (as filmed for the late 2000s Spanish DVD debut).
Naschy’s pride in his accomplishments can be seen and heard full force in both the previous extra as well as the next: the Blood and Sand episode from Andrew Starke and Pete Tombs’ loving ode to European cult cinema, Eurotika!, as initially broadcast on Channel 4 in the late ’90s. This genre-specific special should really serve as a good, proper introduction for those of you who just aren’t hip to the Spanish horror scene. Next up is a newly-recorded interview with Daniela Giordano, who has much to tell us. Even more amazing than that are the amount of mind-numbing clips from other Mondo Macabro releases which round up this release.
Paul Naschy himself would pass away in 2009, leaving behind him a legacy of unique and game-changing horror films that have since become just as fabled and as legendary as the movies which had initially sparked his imagination. While I personally didn’t find it to be as enjoyable as, say, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, Hunchback of the Morgue, or most of his Waldemar Daninsky flicks, Inquisition is still a whole lot of fun (for the people who aren’t tortured to death, that is). And, as someone who himself became hooked on Spanish horror as a kid, I can’t help but recommend this, one of the last “full” exploitation horrors from a truly one-of-a-kind filmmaker.