The Film (5/5)
I have a hard time picking a favorite Dario Argento movie, his golden period from Bird with the Crystal Plumage through the Stendhal Syndrome is marked with so many high points that it makes picking favorites quite the difficult proposition. That being said I find Inferno quite often in my top 3 Argento films. It's blend of stylized violence, intricate set design, lavish lighting, and an extremely surrealistic non-linear plot come together to create something that is hard to describe, but easy to watch.
Inferno is the 2nd part of Dario Argento’s recently completed Three Mothers Trilogy, following Argento’s better known classic Suspiria, and followed by the recent Mother of Tears. The film has a non-linear plot which opens with Rose Elliott (Irene Miracle), a young poetess, who lives in an old New York City apartment building reading a book about the Three Mothers. The Three Mothers, are considered the greatest of all witches who rule the world from their homes in New York (Mater Tenebrarum), Freiburg, Germany (Mater Suspiriorum), and Rome, Italy (Mater Lachrymarum). From her readings, Rose begins to suspect that her apartment building may be the home of one of the three Mothers, and begins to search for clues. Her investigation does not go unnoticed, and she soon finds herself a victim of Mater Tenebrarum.
The film then jumps over to Rome, Italy where Rose’s brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) is attending a music conservatory. He receives a letter Rose wrote before she died, but does not get to read it as it falls into the hands of a classmate. This classmate becomes intrigued by the contents of the letter, and begins doing her own preliminary research. She, of course, ends up with a similar fate to Rose. Mark, who arrives at the house just in time to discover the recent corpse of his classmate decides to try and locate, his now missing sister, and goes to her New York apartment to begin investigating with the help of her friend and neighbor Elise Stallone Van Adler (Dario Nicolodi).
The film as you can tell from the overly complicated synopsis does not have much going in the way of plot. It is, however, a deeply compelling film that is held up by it’s fantastic visuals crafted by director Argento with some assistance from the Godfather of Italian horror Mario Bava (M. Bava may have directed the opening sequence in Argento’s absence, and also contributed to the set design). The film flows nicely from one gory surrealistic set piece to the next, before reaching its feverish denouement in the basement of the New York City Apartment building with Mark face to face with Mater Tenebrarum.
Inferno is presented in an uncut 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer courtesy of Arrow Video. The transfer is positively mind blowing, the level of detail is incredibly, and Dario’s famous colors practically burst from the screen with such great vibrancy. The black levels are deep, and feature a nice healthy dose of film grain, and the flesh tones are accurate. I have never seen Inferno look this good, and this is a seriously substantial upgrade from prior editions.
If the excellent video was not enough, Arrow has seen fit to similarly remaster the audio. There are 3 options available, and all are quite excellent. The first is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master in English, a Dolby Digital stereo track also in English, and the film’s original Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian. As I said, all 3 options are excellent, and I watched with the 5.1 track for most of my viewing occasionally switching over to see how the others faired. The dialogue is completely audible on all 3 tracks, and as are the effects. Keith Emerson’s operatic score for the film fares best here, and practically exploded from my speakers.
This is being touted as 2 disc special edition. I only received the first of the two disc. Even if this was the only disc in the set, it would still be quite an excellent special edition. I only wish I could have received a copy with both, so I could give a better overview of what’s here.
The disc kicks off with a short introduction from Inferno actress, and ex-wife of Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi. This is followed up with an interview with 15+ minute interview with Dario Argento entitled Dario’s Inferno, an interview with actress Nicolodi called Acting in Hot Water, and an interview with Argento protégé (and Profondo Rosso shop manager)Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Alien Contamination) who discusses his unofficial third Three Mother’s film The Black Cat. The first disc is rounded off with a Q & A hosted by Mario Bava: All The Colors of the Dark author Tim Lucas and features Inferno star Irene Miracle and composer Keith Emerson. The Q & A runs over 30 minutes long, and covers a vast array of subjects pertaining to Inferno.
Arrow’s Blu-ray of Inferno, is simply put, amazing. The film is as great as it has ever been, and the A/V work here is absolutely stunning, Inferno has never looked, or sounded this good on home video. The first disc of extras is absolutely fantastic, and gives a great insight into the film, and it’s production. Honestly, If you are a European horror fan, you want this disc. I cannot recommend it highly enough, the work here is brilliant. Very Highly Recommended.