This Trope is under discussion at the Trope Repair Shop.
General Tara: (in private office, smirking) I hope they refuse....
There are cold-blooded maniacs who prefer to torture their victims with their own hands. There are the bad-asses who must have at least a few henchmen around to help out with the heavy lifting of pain infliction. Then there is the rare breed of villain who prefers to think of him or herself as "above" the common labor of applying crushing physical or psychological agony personally for fear it might put a nick in their nails — and besides, watching is just a lot more fun.
The voyeuristic vulture doesn't always have to be rich. The equipment used can run the gamut from state-of-the-art closed-circuit camera systems operated by legions of henchmen in a torture dungeon to a Handycam and a tripod, for the more cost-conscious psycho.
The primary reason for these elaborate setups, of course, is simple: the torturer is a supreme sadist (or perhaps just an obsessed archivist). Either way, they aren't completely happy unless they are completely comfortable while being cruel. And inflicting pain, for all its supposed adrenaline rushes and power plays, can be a sweaty business in reality. People can spray blood on you, injure your ears with unmitigated shrieking, or God forbid, try to retaliate. Besides, these effete scoundrels detest their own perspiration even more than a prisoner who won't cooperate.
Ideally, the villain will be somewhere far more comfortable than the victim, and usually indulging in some hedonistic relaxing ritual, such as sipping an expensive bordeaux or cognac, smoking a fine cigar or cigarette (in a holder for added decadence), while simultaneously giving orders by intercom to the less-refined minions who are paid to do their dirty work. These cretins usually also use this same system to subtly (or not so subtly) verbally torment the victim.
Whatever they do, the effect is demoralizing for the prisoner, to say the least. The message is clear: "I'm watching you and, unlike you, I'm enjoying myself."
- In The Phantom, self-absorbed dictator General Tara tortures the Phantom's fiancee Diana Palmer and her UN co-worker Sven Nillson remotely. With Diana chained to a torture rack, and Sven to a whipping post, General Tara patiently insists they sign a document stating that he is not a tyrannical torturing madman. While Sven and Diana endure a smoky, rancid dungeon, General Tara watches from a large leather chair in a poshly comfortable palace office, puffing on a cigarette holder.
- In Captivity, a lunatic imprisons a supermodel in an underground dungeon and watches her endure his tortures (though sometimes he executes them himself as well, slightly breaking the trope). The hooded villain is often seen enjoying a glass of fine wine as he monitors her suffering on a bank of video monitors.
- Kovner's United Partisan Organization in The New Order: Last Days of Europe records and broadcasts torture and killings of German prisoners as it happens after other factions are defeated during the Ostland Civil War.