Director: Jerry Smith
Writer: Edithe Swensen
Cast: Roberts Blossom, Bruce MacVittie, Michael O’Hare, Alan Scarfe, Dominic Marcus, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Tom Pile
Air Date: 11/9/1986
After acquiring a painting of the Spanish Inquisition, an unscrupulous art dealer named Harte (Bruce MacVittie) is visited by a mysterious man (Alan Scarfe) dressed in a monk outfit. Refusing to repent from his evil ways, Harte is later confronted by an inquisitor (Roberts Blossom) and required to confess his crimes before a religious court.
“Heretic” should be commended for its medieval set pieces and commendable morality lesson. Horror fans may, however, take issue with the undeveloped themes, lackluster performances, and watered-down torture sequences featured in this offering.
Roberts Blossom deserves praise for his portrayal of a self-righteous, hypocritical authority figure who justifies torturing, murdering, and coercing others under a thin veneer of piety—exactly the qualities that one would expect of 16th century inquisitor (see Herbert Lom’s performance in Mark of the Devil for a similar example).
When transported to a medieval prison and put on trial for his wicked actions, Harte fails to behave in a realistic, let alone remotely plausible, fashion. Specifically, instead of acting confused or terrified upon arriving in the dungeon, the main character responds to the Inquisitor by threatening and insulting him—a reaction that no sane individual, brave or otherwise, would demonstrate if placed in the same predicament as Harte. Also problematic is Harte’s unconvincing display of pain while bound to a torture device, which further detracts from the realism of this episode.
Tales from the Darkside viewers may enjoy this episode, which benefits from a gothic atmosphere. Nevertheless, “Heretic” may evoke criticism for its occasionally poor acting and predictable twist in the final scene.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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