Created By: Odon on March 2, 2013

Showing The Instruments

A torturer shows off the tools of their trade

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A Cold Blooded Torturer displays the tools of his trade, often laid out neatly on a table to demonstrate the clinical approach he or she brings to their work, and shown to the audience via a slow pan close-up.

Historically this is Truth in Television, part of a three-step process to encourage the prisoner to be more cooperative. 'First degree' torture involved verbal threats of what you're going to do, 'second degree' is showing the prisoner the instruments of torture, while 'third degree' is application.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Marcie the insane invisible girl whips a sheet off a tray of surgical instruments she intends to use to give Cordelia a Glasgow Grin.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies. Elliot Carver shows his ancient chakra torture tools to Bond and Lin.
    Elliot Carver: According to Eastern philosophy, the body has seven different chakra points. The Energy centers, like the heart, or genitals. The purpose of these implements is to probe those organs, inflicting the maximum amount of pain whilst keeping the victim alive for as long as possible.
  • The Matrix. At the start of Morpheus' interrogation, we're given a brief pan across gleaming stainless steel surgical instruments and vials of drugs.
  • Serves as a Chekhov's Gun in True Lies, specifically the Patterson trocar Arnie uses to kill the guard while using the torturer as a Human Shield.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. When Davos Seaworth is held in the Wolf's Den he's treated well, but the turnkey makes a point of showing him the Whore -- an iron rod that when heated is used scorching off the testicles, and Lady Lu -- a huge axe for cutting off the head and hands, hopefully in that order.

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • March 2, 2013
  • March 3, 2013
    In the Russian comic book series Red Fury by Bubble Comics, The Dragon Helga Lemke does this to the heroine. Along with the phrase "With each question you answer, I'll take one instrument away" in a bad German accent.
  • March 3, 2013
    • Discussed in the second novel of Seekers Of The Sky duology. Ilmar admits that he spilled the beans before the monks even started torturing him for information, while they were still showing him their tools.
  • March 3, 2013
  • March 3, 2013
    Parodied in Wyrd Sisters, where Nanny Ogg is Too Kinky To Torture.
    Nanny Ogg What's that?
    Duke Ah! That is my Iron Maiden. Well may you tremble, for -
    Nanny Ogg Can I have a go in it?
    Duke Your pleas fall on deaf - Wait, what?
  • March 3, 2013
    In Pans Labyrinth, this falls under the purview of Vidal, naturally. It doesn't work out so well for him the second time he does it. (BTW, I'm trying here to link to the trope where somebody is attacked in mid-speech, and I'm not positive we have it. Quite the oversight.)
  • March 3, 2013
    • In The First Law this is standard operating procedure among protagonist Inquisitor Gloka and other members of the Inquisition.
  • March 3, 2013
    On the Arsenic And Old Lace movie, before the insane Serial Killer Jonathan Brewster starts doing the 'Melbourne Method' to his sane brother Mortimer, there is a long lingering shot of him opening a doctor's case full of sharp instruments and pulling one out while describing how much he's going to like doing this.
  • March 3, 2013
    • Alias
      • In the first episode a Hong Kong baddie shows Sidney the tools he's going to use to pull her teeth out if she doesn't talk. Her response? "Start with the ones in the back."
      • Done by McKenas Cole (played by Quentin Tarantino) after he & his mooks have invaded SD-6 on behalf of "The Man." He talks to Arvin, trying to get him to open the vault in order to get a Mac Guffin. It doesn't work.
  • March 3, 2013
    Doesn't Faith have hers laid out too, when she's talking to Wes about the five kinds of torture on Angel? I'm not sure.
  • March 3, 2013
    Of course, you can always just lay out the scariest looking Cow Tools you can find and just go through the first two steps.
  • March 4, 2013
    I'm not sure that this should be distinct from To The Pain, especially since a lot of the examples have both happening at the same time. They're both pretty much Nothing Is Scarier + Cold Blooded Torture.
  • March 9, 2013
    • You Only Live Twice. When SPECTRE Number 11 has James Bond tied to a chair in her cabin, she pulls open a drawer to display a set of cutting utensils, including a dermatologist's dermatome. She takes out the dermatome and threatens to use it on Bond unless he talks.
  • March 9, 2013
    In the book Casino Royale Le Chiffre shows James Bond the rather prosaic torture device of a carpet beater, which he applies liberally to Bond's nether regions. (Not having seen the film IDK if it appears there as well.)