Paul Naschy was a name that as recently as a year ago was foreign to me. A lot can change in a year though, and now I’m very much aware of this great man. After checking out a number of his acting roles I recently got my first glimpse of Naschy the director with his directorial debut, Inquisition. It was quite the experience.
Inquisition is a period piece set in 16th century France during the French inquisition and witch-trials. Naschy stars as Bernard de Fossey, a witch-finder general that scours the French countryside searching for witches. Fossey comes across small villages that have suffered bouts of the plague that have resulted in many deaths and determines that it’s the work of a witch working with the devil. He investigates, eventually finding the “guilty” party who is then burned at the stake. It’s a tough job, but someone must do it in the name of God and for the good of the people.
Fossey enters a new village that has been suffering many deaths and offers to help them. Soon after arriving Fossey begins to develop feelings for a woman named Catherine (Daniela Giordano) and a man in Fossey’s position should not have these type of feelings. In order to fight these feelings and prove his allegiance to the Church, Fossey is determined to find the witch responsible for the suffering of the village.
In most of these witch-hunt films, innocent victims are targeted and tortured until they die or they admit to being a witch and then are killed anyway. Plenty of that happens in Inquisition with a number of violent and brutal torture scenes. The torture devices used are menacing, awful creations. What sets Inquisition apart from these other films is that Catherine actually does attempt to give herself to the Devil in order to gain powers and use them against Fossey. Whether or not Catherine is actually able to do this is for the audience to decide. Either way, it’s a nice little touch.
Inquisition is a wonderful film and splendid directorial debut from Naschy. Generally speaking, church and religion creep me out quite a bit, but nothing is scarier than mid-century witch-hunting in the name of religion. It’s chilling to think these things really happened. Movies elaborate of course, but innocent people were often blamed and eventually killed because a disease people didn’t understand would hit a small village.
The Blu-ray release from Mondo Macabro is one of the very best, if not the best, Blu-ray release of the year. The film looks stunning with plenty of detail and clarity present. This release serves as another prime example why it’s a great time to be a genre fan that collects physical media. Here’s a movie that is pushing 40 and it looks spectacular. True film preservation rests with the genre crowd and companies like Mondo Macabro continue to make us proud.
As they typically do, Mondo loaded this bad boy up with some quality special features. There’s an introduction to the film from Naschy. This was originally used on a Spanish DVD release of the film and has been ported over here. It’s a nice little feature and Naschy uses the time to explain the importance of the film and what it means to him. There’s also an interview with Giordano that is more recent and here she talks about how she got into acting after becoming Miss Italy and gives some details about her experience working on Inquisition. If commentaries are your thing this release has you covered with a brand new commentary with Naschy historians Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn. If you’re looking to really get into Naschy this commentary is a great place to start.
The best feature is a little half hour documentary called Blood and Sand. This is an older mini-doc that looks like it may have been part of some BBC show or something similar, but it basically is a quick dive into the world of Spanish genre films and how they became to be. A lot of information is jammed into 30 minutes with the likes of Jess Franco, Jose Ramon Larraz, Amando de Ossorio and Naschy all be highlighted. This is the perfect introduction to Spanish horror, an absolute must-watch.
Inquisition is an impressive debut and a nasty tale on the horrors of mid-century witch-hunts from a true legend in Paul Naschy. Mondo Macabro has presented it in the way it deserves to be presented. If you’re a genre fan you need this in your collection.
Inquisition is currently available on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro.