Dario Argento's INFERNO Blu-ray Review

Contributor; London
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Dario Argento's INFERNO Blu-ray Review
The second in Dario Argento's Three Mothers Trilogy, following Suspiria in 1977 and belatedly concluded with Mother of Tears in 2007, Inferno is an oft overlooked work from the director's glory days. Whilst Argento's trademark extended death sequences never quite reach the imaginative heights of Suspiria or Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) the film is a marvel to look at, with a number of unforgettable and truly macabre scenes.

Even for Argento the plot here is, by his own admission, full of 'riddles'. And that's no understatement. Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) is a young poetess who begins to explore the history of her New York apartment block, stumbling on the frightening mythology of 'The Three Mothers' - ostensibly three witches' covens in Rome, New York and Freiberg, Germany. After a succession of decidedly unsettling events she makes a desperate call to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) in Rome. On arriving in New York Mark discovers his sister is gone and embarks on his own investigation.

Inferno is at its core a haunted house movie, with a succession of increasingly supernatural encounters as various characters investigate the strange happenings, both in New York and Rome. Very much a mood piece, trying to decipher Argento's 'riddles' is a futile exercise and one that actually detracts from the principal appeal of soaking up the incredible atmosphere and suspense filled set-pieces. This isn't a mystery to solve, it's one to surrender yourself to. Resist the urge to question motivations and non sequiturs and you quickly become immersed in the theatrically lit sets and mesmeric photography. Some key scares are masterfully built up too - an underwater scene early on will have you rubbing your feet for security.

Frequent Argento collaborators Goblin, so synonymous with his films, are absent from Inferno, instead replaced by a score from legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame). It's a hell of a score too. Perhaps not as catchy or rock-laden as Goblin's themes, it's still fitting and wonderfully intrusive when needs be. Never has a simple taxi ride been leant so much melodrama...

Need I mention acting at this point? I think not. As with almost all of the director's work, you either 'get' Argento or you don't, but for those who relish the concept of horror as art movie then Inferno is a prime example of his oeuvre. Don't expect the operatic gore of his bloodier works, but do expect a unique piece of cinema with witches, rats, a cat attack using real felines (which takes Let The Right One In to task), and some supernatural scares of the highest order.

 The Disc

Arrow video have put together a pretty solid package here with an uncut (some mouse bothering was causing the BBFC a few palpitations) restored HD transfer. It's very clean and shows off the vibrant palette well. Dark scenes have the grain you'd expect from a film this age, but remain clear and appear true to the original source.

Also included are four sleeve art options, a double-sided poster, an exclusive collector's booklet written by Alan Jones (author of 'Profondo Argento' and founder of Frightfest) and six original poster art postcards.

The new extras feature some lovely animated title sequences that relate to various aspects of the film and are fun in their own right, whilst the content is on the whole brief but insightful. In particular the recollections of Argento and Daria Nicolodi are amusingly disparate with the former husband and wife not entirely in agreement over artistic input (in 'Dario's Inferno' featurette and 'Acting In Hot Water - An Interview With Daria Nicolodi).

'The Other Mother: Making The Black Cat' is a diverting curiosity more interesting for director Luigi Cozzi's perspective on Argento and Nicolodi than for his story on how the unofficial 1989 'sequel' to Inferno came to pass.

The 2000 documentary 'Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror' makes an appearance too, containing much worshipping at the Italian's feet by the likes of George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Tom Savini. Narrated by the always engaging Mark Kermode, it suffers from being a decade old with out of date remarks like "his still unfinished Three Mothers Trilogy" and from an overly reverential tone that does it no favours. Still, at nearly an hour long it does give a decent overview of Argento's career.

There's an Easter Egg somewhere with Dario's memories of Mario Bava too.

A somewhat mixed bag of extras then but as a whole it's a very attractive re-issue, and worth it for the transfer alone.

The 30th Anniversary Edition of Inferno will be released as a two-disc DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo by Arrow Video on 13th September 2010.
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Charles WebbAugust 25, 2010 3:53 PM

So what do you think, James? Is it time to ditch my 10-year-old DVD from Anchor Bay?

The SmileAugust 26, 2010 3:54 AM

maybe you should weit for the German Camera Obscura Disc which looks like an even better package in everything respect :-)

James DennisAugust 26, 2010 4:21 AM

I've not owned any other versions, but it's certainly not one of those "hardly any difference between the DVD and BR" jobs. It makes my Anchor Bay version of Tenebrae look like a disaster...! Probably time to revsisit my 2002 Suspiria DVD too and see if that's due an upgrade.

DangerManAwesomeAugust 26, 2010 6:40 PM

if anything, get this one for that box cover (ASSuming that the one pictured here is the box cover)!

Ard VijnAugust 27, 2010 9:50 AM

I thought it's only one of several different covers "Inferno" is being released in, but each version is supposed to have a set of art-cards showing all covers in it.

SwarezAugust 28, 2010 2:14 PM

The Arrow Suspiria disc is spectacular. You have never seen the colors in this film until you see it in high def. Fantastic stuff.

Arrow have been doing a stellar job with this and go all out for us collector nerds. Well proper releases.

J HurtadoAugust 28, 2010 2:25 PM

I think the covers are reversible, that is how their Day of the Dead is anyway.

lacrimarum80September 20, 2011 12:32 PM

While I didn't hate it the first time, it seemed quite poor compared to Suspiria. Not visually, but as far as everything else was concerned. Over time, I began to understand this puzzle of a film a bit better and appreciate its enigmatic nature. It's one of Argento's most polarizing movies to fans, but now proudly one of my favorites. http://inferno1980.blogspot.com