Arrow Video recently released Dario Argento’s Inferno onto Blu-ray for the first time. They’ve brought their trademarked kick-ass presentation, in both packaging and content, to Dario Argento’s film about murderous and mystical happenings in New York City.
Inferno is the middle film in Argento’s well known Three Mothers trilogy. Thankfully it sits closer in both style and quality to the first of the trilogy, Suspiria, and far from the ugly disaster that is part three, Mother Of Tears. Set in New York City, the story finds a young poet named Rose (Irene Miracle) researching the history of her building because she’s grown bored trying to find a word to rhyme with orange. She discovers a mystery surrounding the building’s origin and owners and traces it to a trio of evil wenches. Or maybe they’re witches. Regardless, the second of the three mothers has made her home in the Big Apple and people are going to die in some grotesque and overly elaborate ways.
Rose makes a frantic call to her brother Mark (Leigh McLoskey) in Rome, but by the time he arrives to meet here she’s gone missing. He picks up the investigation, but the powers behind the building’s secret history aren’t too keen on being discovered. Knives will stab, cats will claw, rats will eat, and disembodied and gloved hands will fill the screen…
Like its predecessor, Inferno is surreal horror enveloped in sumptuous visual style. They don’t make movies like this anymore, hell, Argento doesn’t even make ’em like this anymore. He bathes the screen with an ever-changing palette of filtered lights and boldly colored rooms and moves his characters through a series of morbidly orchestrated set-pieces. One of the best occurs early on as Rose takes a swim in a flooded basement. She moves calmly through the water, past furniture and wall decorations, only to be interrupted by a floating corpse.
The story is a bit less straight forward than the one in Suspiria as the film’s focus seems to shift away from Mark as the central lead every few minutes. Instead we get introduced to a unibrowed book dealer, a mysterious octogenarian on wheels, and Daria Nicolodi as a tenant in the building. The illusion of a concentrated narrative is set in motion by the fact that Argento waits almost a full thirty minutes before offering up the first kill, but from that point forward it’s all about cat and rat attacks, devilish shenanigans, and strategically placed conflagrations.
Inferno sits smack dab in the middle of what was arguably Argento’s most creatively rewarding ten year period. 1975 to 1985 saw him direct not only the first two films in the Three Mothers trilogy but also Deep Red, Tenebrae, and Phenomena. His films since have been a series of nonsensical missed opportunities, but these five represent the pinnacle of Italian horror. And as if that wasn’t enough, Argento trades in his usual musical partners in crime (Goblin) for a score by Keith Emerson. Of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. And the damn thing works too…
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of Inferno, like many of their recent releases, is a thing of beauty. It’s a two disc set, with the first being a region free Blu-ray playable on any Blu-ray player including the PS3 and the second a region 2 DVD (meaning you will need an all-region player to access it). An outer sleeve with a viewing window reveals the traditional blue case within containing the discs, a double-sided poster, six postcards, a reversible sleeve offering four possible covers, and a booklet featuring a new essay on the film by Alan Jones. The picture is pretty damn sharp for a thirty year old movie, and Argento’s set design and colored lights pop off the screen in HD. Images that always seemed dark or fuzzy on VHS are bright and clear here.
Blu-ray disc one – Dario’s Inferno (1080p, 16 minutes) is an interview with Argento about Inferno, his problems with 20th Century Fox in the US, and why he waited seventeen years to conclude the trilogy. Acting In Hot Water: Daria Nicolodi Remembers Inferno (1080p, 19 minutes) sees the legendary Argento collaborator (and ex-wife) discussing the “gender struggles” she encountered as a co-writer/co-creator of Suspiria and Inferno, the cat attack scene, her obvious preference for Mario Bava over Argento, and the fact that (Mother of Tears aside) the final Three Mothers film has yet to be properly filmed. The Other Mother: Luigi Cozzi On The Black Cat (1080p, 15 minutes) is an interesting look at the highly unofficial 1989 sequel to Inferno with the director explaining his motivation, interest in adding a meta angle to the story, and his dealings with US distributors. Inferno Q&A (1080p, 30 minutes) preceded a New Beverly screening in 2009 featuring Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, co-star Irene Miracle, and composer Keith Emerson. Argento Remembers Bava (1080p, 5 minutes) is a main menu Easter egg featuring Argento talking in broken English about the title, score, and more.
DVD disc two – Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror (SD, 56 minutes) is an affectionate documentary from 2000 about Argento’s life and films and features interviews with John Carpenter, George Romero, Asia Argento, and several others. Dario Argento And Lamberto Bava On Inferno (SD, 8 minutes) features the two men talking about the film and Mario Bava’s influence. Dario Argento Trailer Gallery (39 minutes) features trailers for all of Argento’s films up through2007’s Mother Of Tears including his oddball early film, The Five Days, as well as his best film, Phenomena (yeah, I said it). The disc also includes two international trailers for Inferno.
Inferno has never looked or sounded better than it does here. If you’re a fan of the film and have a region-free DVD player (for the special features on disc 2) then this purchase should be a no-brainer. Casual fans might still consider picking it up though as the film itself and all of disc one’s brand new special features are playable on any US Blu-ray player. The film is one of Argento’s better efforts with a solid mix of horror, style, and a melodic but driving score from Emerson. Oh, and cats and rats. Lots of rats and cats.
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