Stuart Gordonís loose take on the Poe story may be his finest work since 'The Re-Animator.'While not as gonzo, itís extremely brutal and has flashes of pitch-black humor. Dressed in ceremonial robes so that only his gaunt bald head and long hands are visible, Lance Henriksen has the role of his life as Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor who mutilates heretics for God and apparently gets off on mutilating himself. He even has a little pendulum on his writing table; itís like an executive desk toy for sadists.
Henriksen makes Torquemada a sexually repressed sick puppy whoís all too recognizably human. He falls in love, or what passes for it, with the lovely Maria (Rona De Ricci), a compassionate peasant woman who may or may not be a witch. Henriksen and De Ricci swap some of the best acting youíll see anywhere.
Thereís some comic relief in a trio of bungling torturers who keep killing suspected witches by accident, but most of the movie canít quite be laughed off. Itís very strong stuff, and itís clear that Paramount had no idea what to do with it (the film was never properly released and is an elusive item on video).It certainly deserves to be seen, as itís one of the finest horror movies in recent memory.