I am very proud of this film. And I'm glad that it’s not been forgotten. I was the star and I played the role of a simple country girl who becomes a witch in order to destroy an inquisitor who has killed her boyfriend. The character of the witch was drawn from historical records, based on a woman called Catherine Brindeau, and Paul sought an actress who physically resembled her, as seen in an engraving in an old book he showed me. When he met me the first time he was surprised because, among other similarities, I also had the same speck in one eye which was mentioned in stories about that girl. In those times this was seen as the sign of the devil. Paul strived for authenticity in the film. All the instruments of torture were authentic. Even the famous Malleus Maleficarum shown in the film. This book, along with many of the other props, were from a famous Madrid museum and Paul had managed to get permission to use them in the film.
Paul Naschy directed me as a real director should. He was almost never angry on set. Being an actor he knows very well how to talk to other actors. The crew loved him. This is very important for things to work well. He was serious, but at the right moment he was able to make fun of something or tell a joke to break the tension.
I really preferred my character in the second part of the film, after Catherine has become a witch. Indeed, it was difficult to play the first part. I remember that Paul told me many times: “Please, try to be more sweet; you are a simple country girl and you respect your father…” It was hard for me to look submissive - considering that at this time in the movie business in Italy I was called “the wild girl” because of my personality (I was and I still am very independent).
One day, my scene included a number of everyday activities in the kitchen. Paul hands me a live chicken and says: "Now take this chicken, sit in that chair, wring its neck and then pluck it. Remember you're a simple country girl, in your kitchen, and you know how to prepare a chicken." Well, at that time in my life I’d never seen a chicken so close up! Except cooked and on my plate. You don’t meet chickens on the street, at the beach or in a nightclub. And in the countryside you only see them on farms as you drive past. So I said: “No, I’m not going to kill this poor chicken. I can’t do it.” I saw Paul’s face darken. Then he went off with one of the crew and together they disappeared into the corner. Eventually he came back, handed me the chicken, now dead but still warm, and said harshly: “Now sit there and pluck it.” I managed it somehow but with tears streaming down my face. In the end, Paul cut most of the scene and left only a few seconds.
A particularly dangerous sequence came at the end, when I was burnt at the stake. Unfortunately, at that very moment the wind rose and blew the flames in my direction. I was tied to the wooden stake and really afraid when I felt the intense heat on my face. I expected Paul to halt the scene, but nothing happened. So my screams in the film are real. I was genuinely scared. And, I must say, so were the crew. It takes just a few seconds to damage an actress for life. The only safety measure was someone standing near the flames with a blanket in case I caught fire !!
At the time, so my agent told me later, the film had grossed more in Spanish-speaking countries than Jaws but it was not sold in Italy because distributors didn’t believe that my name alone would bring in audiences and also because there wasn’t enough sex. It was a big disappointment for me because I had hoped that the success of this film would start to raise the quality of the scripts that were being offered to me. Fortunately, over the years, Inquisition has made its own way around the world, first on video-tape and then on DVD. I am very happy that Mondo Macabro has now been able to restore the film and distribute it on Blu Ray for the first time anywhere in the world.
The limited edition blu-ray featuring a reversible cover with exclusive art on both sides and a booklet with brand new writing on the film by Pete Tombs will be available to purchase on Wednesday, April 12th at 7am P.S.T.Pre-order here