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The Pit And The Pendulum at Chazen Museum Of Art

October 16, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm

Maria (Rona De Ricci) pleads to the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen).

Maria (Rona De Ricci) pleads to the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen).

From Ian Adcock’s feature on UW Cinematheque’s October Sunday series at the Chazen Museum Of Art:

The loosely Edgar Allan Poe-adapted The Pit And The Pendulum (1991) graphically depicts the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.

Accused of practicing witchcraft by the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen), innocent Maria (Rona De Ricci) and her husband Antonio (Jonathan Fuller) are imprisoned and tortured. Torquemada grows increasingly infatuated with his beautiful captive, and Maria has to learn magic from kindly witch Esmerelda (Frances Bay, a David Lynch/Adam Sandler regular) in order to survive. Written by Gordon’s lifelong friend and collaborator Dennis Paoli (who visited the Wisconsin Film Festival this year), The Pit And The Pendulum manages to be a well-researched depiction of the Inquisition while also brimming with Gordon’s signature gallows humor. Gordon uses the hypocrisy and fanaticism of the Inquisition as a commentary on the rise of the religious right during the Reagan and Bush years as well as his eternal struggles with the MPAA ratings board.

The Pit And The Pendulum was a return to horror for Gordon, who had spent the previous couple years developing Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989) for Disney before stress-induced health issues led him to drop out as director. The film also reunited Gordon with producer and horror mogul Charles Band, whose Empire Pictures had produced Gordon’s first four films. While Band is best known for churning out cheap straight-to-VHS junk like Puppet Master (1989), he always gave Gordon artistic freedom. The Pit And The Pendulum’s period ambience benefits from being filmed in an actual 15th-century castle owned by Band, an ingenious cost-cutting method that Gordon would use again for the truly terrifying Castle Freak (1995).


October 16, 2022
2:00 pm - 3:45 pm
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Chazen Museum Of Art
800 University Ave
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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(608) 263-2246

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