Blu-Review: Dario Argento’s Inferno

Directed By Dario Argento
Starring Irene Miracle, Leigh McCloskey, Eleonora Giorgi and Daria Nicolodi



Young poet Rose (Irene Miracle) comes into possession of a book entitled The Three Mothers – a cryptic tome about three witches who rule the mortal world in secret from houses in Rome, New York and Germany – and becomes convinced that her apartment building is the home of the stateside witch. She puts her Nancy Drew hat on and goes investigating, but is soon vanished away by evil forces, leaving her musicology student brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) to unravel the witches’ mystery and discover what happened to his missing sibling.

Trying to make sense of Inferno’s plot is much like trying to fathom why Paris Hilton is famous – it’s a train of thought that will only lead to confusion, frustration and possible madness. Director Dario Argento crams the film’s sparse story with narrative dead ends, baffling character motives and cryptic nonsense that has little hope of tying together coherently. When viewed as a prolonged nightmare captured on film, though, the plot’s staunch dismissal of logic (and the fact that the dark fairytale vision of New York looks suspiciously like Italy) makes perfect contradictory sense.

A loosely-plotted series of elaborately constructed, majestically operatic murder scenes, Inferno is one long dream-like work of surreal terror – a spookhouse ride of the highest calibre. The film is bathed in distinct, vibrant and darkly colourful lighting, compounding the film’s phantasmagoric atmosphere wonderfully. The film’s surreal and ingeniously designed set pieces, like Rose’s underwater basement scene, are a masterful exercise in tension and visual inventiveness, made all the more effective by Keith Emerson’s superb rock opera score.

Character development is non-existent, the performances are often stilted or melodramatic (which is oddly fitting considering the operatic nature of the film) and the plot is obtuse at best, but it works so perfectly as a surreal visual fairytale that it’s impossible not to forgive and embrace the film’s failings. As a showreel for Argento’s talent and ability, it’s the display of a master at the height of his craft. He ratchets the tension up with alarming precision, the combination of imaginative camerawork, impeccably crafted set pieces and a surreal, unsettling atmosphere all contributing to an unforgettable horror experience.
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On the Blu-ray:

Arrow Video’s release marks the first time the film has been available on DVD or Blu-ray in the UK, and the crowning jewel of the set is naturally the film’s uncut HD transfer. It’s a stunning restoration that’s sure to leave fans of the film elated at the loving attention that’s been paid to it. There’s some natural grain apparent during darker shots, as expected for a 30-year-old movie, but otherwise the visuals offer beautifully clear and crisp detail and preserve the film’s distinct, vibrant colour palette wonderfully. It’s certainly a night-and-day upgrade from the US DVD release, and the film’s gorgeous, dream-like visuals look better than they ever have before.

Audio-wise, Arrow have included an impressive English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track, along with English Stereo and Italian Mono tracks, and a separate set of English subtitles for each.

On the special features front, first up is ‘Dario’s Inferno’, which runs around 17 minutes and features an interview with Argento covering the film’s conception, his inspiration and intentions and the trouble he had with Fox’s studio head at the time in securing a release for the film.

‘Acting in Hot Water’ offers a candid and interesting discussion with actress Daria Nicolodi, supposedly also the uncredited writer of Inferno (she co-wrote Inferno’s predecessor Suspiria, the first in the loosely connected ‘Three Mothers Trilogy’, but apparently had a tough time fighting for credit). She talks at length about working with ex-husband Argento and Mario Bava, the legendary horror director who provided some special effects and matte work for the film, as well as discussing her intended final part of the trilogy which would’ve been much different than Argento’s official follow-up Mother of Tears.
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‘The Other Mother: Making The Black Cat’ focuses on Luigi Cozzi’s film The Black Cat (released as Demons 6). It was evidently an unofficial sequel to Inferno made in 1989, starring and apparently written by Nicolodi. It’s an interesting feature to see, though judging by the clips shown of the film, Argento doesn’t have much to worry about.

‘Argento Remembers Bava’ is a short easter egg hidden on the disc containing a small interview segment with Argento. The title should clue you in to what he chats about, though unfortunately he speaks in English here (he’s interviewed in Italian, with English subtitles, during the other feature), which clearly isn’t his mother tongue and leads to a rather choppy, pause-laden discussion.

The most interesting feature on the Blu-ray is the ‘Inferno Q&A’ – a 30 minute pre-movie chat with Irene Miracle, Keith Emerson and Argento historian/author Tim Lucas recorded at a New Beverly Theatre screening of the film. Lucas is a font of fascinating info, detailing Bava’s involvement and Argento’s illness during filming, which caused him to direct the film from a hospital bed via written notes. Emerson and Miracle are great fun to listen to as well as they recall their time working on the film, and the lively crowd-focused atmosphere makes for a more laid-back, entertaining discussion than the one-on-one interview features.
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If that weren’t enough, Arrow have seen fit to include an extra DVD of additional extras with the Blu-ray. I only received the main Blu-ray disc for review, so I can’t comment on the quality of the other extras, but the second disc will include ‘Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror’ (a documentary from 2000 about the director, narrated by Mark Kermode with input from John Carpenter, George Romero and others), ‘Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava on Inferno’ and ‘The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery’.

Also included with the set are four different cover sleeve options with a selection of diverse poster art to choose from and an exclusive collector’s booklet written by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento.

It’s an essential purchase for Argento fans for the stunning transfer alone, but Arrow have amassed an impressive variety of extras to boot, resulting in a fantastic, must-have set for fans of the film.

Rating:




Inferno is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 13th September 2010.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they might not reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)