Friday, May 20, 2011

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) - Stuart Gordon

The Pit and the Pendulum (released on DVD in the United States as The Inquisitor) is a 1991 horror film directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

The film is an amalgamation of several Edgar Allan Poe tales, including "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Cask of Amontillado." The film also appropriates the anecdote of "The Sword of Damocles," re-assigning it to Torquemada.


Set in Spain, 1492, Grand Inquisitor Torquemada leads a bloody reign of terror, torturing and killing in the name of religion. Upset with the way the Church is practicing torture, Maria speaks out during a public burning and whipping of a title-stripped family. Maria's own beauty leads Torquemada into temptation and brutal atonement. Confused over his desires, he accuses Maria of being a witch and to be tortured until confession. During Maria's interrogation, Torquemada cannot help but to stare at her naked body leading him to order her put in the prison. Imprisoned, Maria is befriended by Esmerelda, a confessed witch. Together they struggle to save themselves from the sinister Torquemada.

Outside the castle walls, Maria's husband Antonio breaks into the castle to rescue his innocent wife. After a failed escape, Antonio is imprisoned for his actions and Torquemada decides to test his new machine of pain on him; The Pit and the Pendulum.


Peter O'Toole was originally slated to play Torquemada and Billy Dee Williams was originally slated to play a character named Abdul. Sherilyn Fenn was originally slated to play Maria.


The film was given quick runs at many film festivals until its home video release in the summer of 1991. In 2000, Full Moon released a DVD of the film, but the DVD has now been discontinued for copyright reasons. Since then it has been released on DVD as part of the Stuart Gordon boxset, which also includes Castle Freak, Deathbed and a bonus disc.


Lance Henriksen - Torquemada
Stephen Lee - Gomez
William J. Norris - Dr. Huesos
Mark Margolis - Mendoza
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon - Contessa D'Alba Molina
Barbara Bocci - Contessa's Son
Benito Stefanelli - Executioner
Jeffrey Combs - Francisco
Tom Towles - Don Carlos
Rona De Ricci - Maria
Jonathan Fuller - Antonio
Oliver Reed - Cardinal
Larry Dolgin - Sergeant of the Guards
Frances Bay - Esmeralda
Fabio Carfora - Beggar

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