Blu-ray Review: Inferno (1953) - Twilight Time Limited Edition (2D/3D)

By , Contributor
In 1952, director Roy Ward Baker (1916-2010) directed Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother to Knock. Six years later he helmed one of the most acclaimed Titanic biopics, A Night to Remember. Nice resume items, to be sure. But in between those, Baker directed a 3D survivalist thriller called Inferno. Starring Robert Ryan as a married man abandoned in the desert by his wife and her lover, Inferno is a briskly-paced slice of pulp. Now that boutique label Twilight Time has issued the film on Blu-ray (an edition limited to 3,000 copies), maybe it'll get a bit more of the attention it deserves.

Wealthy Donald Carson III breaks his leg while horseback riding and is subsequently left unconscious in the desert by his wife, Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming), and the man she's recently taken up with, Joe (William Lundigan). Much of Inferno's compact 83 minutes is devoted to Carson's attempts to stay alive, injured and in a hostile environment. It's a simple story, one that was remade in 1973 as a TV movie, Ordeal. Frankly, it's high time for someone to remake the film again. We don't to learn enough about Geraldine's willingness to let her husband perish. Sure, there's the money. That's obviously all Joe's in it for. While Robert Ryan delivers an agreeably flinty performance as the surprisingly resourceful Carson, Fleming is given little to develop. The 1953 film could serve as a template for an update that would expand on character motivations. 

rsz_inferno_booklet.png The 3D presentation is pretty cool for a vintage piece. At first glance, this is a highly unusual film to receive the 3D treatment. What's nice is that (barring a few glaring exceptions) Baker doesn't trade in obvious, stuff-flying-at-the-camera gimmickry. The 3D in Inferno is utilized mostly to establish depth of field, dramatically showing just how alone Carson really is in the vast, unforgiving desert. A confrontation that occurs after Joe's long pursuit of Carson is one of the more active 3D-effect sequences. Those without 3D capability can still enjoy the film in 2D.

Several special features grace TT's Inferno Blu-ray, including an audio commentary track featuring film historian Alan K. Rode and Lisa Ryan (daughter of Robert). There's also a short but informative featurette (taped a few years ago), "A New Dimension of Noir: Filming Inferno in 3D." Paul Sawtell's score is available as an isolated track.

To order Inferno, visit distributor Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time site.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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