The Film (1/5)
Cult Greek director, Nikos Papatakis, possess’ a fairly modest body of work having only directed five movies in his lifetime. Interestingly enough, having fled to New York in 1957 for political reasons, he befriended John Cassavetes and became co-producer on “Shadows”. Being raised in a politically charged time, Papatakis embarked to tell a truly grueling and reflective story of the Algeria anti-colonial liberation struggle. In what has been claimed as one of the most radical films to emerge from the decade, Papatakis debuted “In Hell” in 1976. Is this film truly as radical as it it claims to be? Pump yourself up for plenty of subtitle reading and let’s find out...
“In Hell”, released as “Tortura” in Italy, tells the story of Hamdias, a producer who’s set to break new boundaries by developing a film on torture. Hamdias believes that the clash of people is what substantiates human nature as well as love and politics. Unfortunately, our chipper director unexpectedly dies halting the project. His leading lady and mother of his child, Gaila, sets out to complete the controversial project with nightmarish results.
From the appealing synopsis and scandalous cover art, “In Hell” seemed destined to be an interesting cinematic experience. How wrong was I. The film is an awful snoozefest that left me puzzled at the characters’ motivations as well as what the plot was attempting to do. Perhaps, the historical events that Papatakis was attempting to reflect fell flat on me but there’s no denying just how wretched this film was. Gaila’s (played by Olga Karlatos who also appeared in “Zombie”) performance is painfully overacted which comes off as plain annoying. In order to prep herself for the torture film, she willingly burns cigarettes on her chest as she listens to tape recordings of her lovers direction. Furthermore, when select scenes of Hamdias’ film are showcased, we see Gaila playing a belly-dancer who twists bottlecaps off with a very feminine area of her body and that’s as risqué as this film gets. The film drags the viewer through the trenches of boredom as Gaila bites her time waiting for Hamdias’ arrival which never comes. As the film concluded, I couldn’t understand how this was deemed one of the most radical films to emerge from the seventies because it sadly is not. “In Hell” is described as a “disturbing cinematic experience” which it certainly is, just for all the wrong reasons. This horrendous attempt at telling a coherent and rewarding story falls flat and leaves you checking your watch for it to end. Now, that’s a real nightmare!
“In Hell” is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1 aspect ratio). This film, arguably, has one of the worst presentations I’ve seen in a while. Scratches, debris, and pops are all present and accounted for while colors and black levels are muddy as can be. I can’t say for sure but the presentation looks tape sourced from easily the worst film print they could find. The awful presentation for this wretched flick seems fitting though.
The film is presented in Italian with optional English subtitles that move far too quickly and most are terribly misspelled. The audio track is barely passable with hisses and pops found far too often. Dialogue can be heard but be prepared to raise the volume level if you’re fluent in Italian.
- Poster Gallery
“In Hell” was a true test of being dragged through the mud of bad cinema. While the political backdrop of the film might have been interesting had I known more about the subject but regardless, this was just a painfully dull and lifeless movie that had me begging for the end credits. The principal cast either overacted or felt more bored than I was watching them. One 7 Movies’ presentation of the film is one of the worst I’ve seen in sometime and should be avoided at all costs. If you’re truly looking to torture yourself, then “In Hell” might be up your alley. If not, steer clear from this mess.