THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991) Reviews and overview



The Pit and the Pendulum is a 1991 American horror film directed by Stuart Gordon, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was produced by Albert Band.

The film is an amalgamation of several of Poe’s 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 the character of Torquemada. It was released on DVD in the United States as The Inquisitor.

The movie stars Lance Henriksen, Stephen Lee, William J. Norris, Mark Margolis, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Barbara Bocci, Benito Stefanelli, Jeffrey Combs, Tom Towles and Oliver Reed (Spasms; The Devils; Curse of the Werewolf).


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 practising torture, Maria speaks out during a public burning and whipping of a 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 stare at her body leading him to order her to be put in prison. Imprisoned, Maria is befriended by Esmeralda, 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…


“Although The Pit and the Pendulum has an escalating pace and even odd moments of humour which makes it feel a long way away in tone from a period Gothic-like, for instance, The Monk (2011), it does have substance and much to recommend it, aesthetically, stylistically and in its imaginative development of a classic horror short story…” Brutal As Hell

“It’s vintage Henriksen, and probably one of the roles that proved he could carry a show like Millenium – even as the antagonist of the film, he’s still compelling and even somewhat sympathetic at times. It’s those gray areas that he excelled at in his prime, and even though he’s an outright villain, Lance brings a humanity to him where lesser actors would have turned it into a cartoon.” Horror Movie a Day

Cast and characters:

Lance Henriksen … Torquemada
Stephen Lee … Gomez
William Norris … Doctor Huesos (as William J. Norris)
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
Geoffrey Copleston … Butcher
Larry Dolgin … Sergeant of the Guards
Tunny Piras … Guard
Fabio Carfora … Beggar
Frances Bay … Esmeralda
Fabrizio Fontana … Jew
Oliver Reed … Cardinal
Michael Deak … Guard (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Castello di Giove, Giove, Terni, Umbria, Italy

Filming dates:

17 September 1990 – 12 October 1990

Technical details:

1 hour 37 minutes
Audio: Ultra Stereo
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1


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