The Film (5/5)
As I stated in my prior review of the Arrow release of Inferno, this is quite possibly my favorite Dario Argento film. It is definitely not his best film, being bettered by Suspiria, Deep Red, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and possibly Tenebre, but it is a film with such a great visual style, and such a wonderful disregard for narrative logic that I can't help to love every dreamy second of it. Lucio Fulci described his 1981 film the Beyond as pure cinema, meaning a film that relied solely on images, and atmosphere, and I feel Inferno would very easily fall into that category as well.
Inferno for those not in the know is the second part of Argento's Three Mother's trilogy, the first part being Suspiria, and third being the recent Mother of Tears. The series is not linked so much as a narrative, but thematically, and tells the tale of three witches who rule the world from their homes in Rome (Mother of Tears), New York City (Inferno), and Freiburg, Germany (Suspiria). It tells the story of a poetess Rose (Irene Miracle), who buys a book on the Three Mothers from a local antiques merchant, and becomes obsessed, noting the similarities between the house of the Mother in the book, and the apartment house in which she lives. She writes a letter to her brother in home about her suspicions, and begins to investigate.
Her brother Mark (Leigh McKloskey), meanwhile, receives the letter, but promptly loses it due to being distracted in class by someone who maybe the third Mother. It is found by a classmate of Mark's who reads it, and becomes similar obsessed by the tale of the Three Mother's. She contacts Mark to pick up the letter, but as it stands, he never receives the letter. After all this, Mark receives a terrified phone call from Rose begging him to come to New York, which he does, unfortunately, when he arrives she is gone, leaving only him, and her neighbor Elise (Dario Nicolodi) to investigate her disappearance, and the weird going's-on in the apartment house.
I know I made it sound like Inferno has a story, but like I said earlier, this it a pretty nonlinear flick. The imagery, however, is some of the finest of Argento's entire career, and the set design including elements of the famous opening underwater ballroom sequence, and the fiery denouement were designed by the Godfather of Italian horror, the great, Mario Bava. It uses a similar brightly colored palette to Suspiria, but uses different primaries to a similar effect, given the films a very interesting continuity. I have heard a lot of negativity heaped in the direction of the score by Keith Emerson, and this is something I've never understood. It is not similar to Goblin's for Suspiria, but plays in a strangely similar ball park and much like the color palette mentioned earlier, helps make the 2 films feels like they are part of an overarching continuous whole. Argento, should have thought back to this, when he decided to give the Mother of Tears a much blander look, feel, and sound from the 2 films preceding it, as (and I digress) it feels less like a third part, and more like a tacked on epilogue.
Inferno coming off of a film like Suspiria, tends to be overshadowed by that films accomplishments, but this film definitely deserves a second (or first) look. For the gorehounds in the audience, it has some surprisingly gory death scenes, that are some of the highlights of Argento's career. This is definitely a highlight of Argento's Golden period, and I am really glad that Blue Underground has given it the Blu-ray release it deserves.
OK, so I'm going to preface this by saying that I gave the Arrow disc a better score, but the problem with running a website like this, is that a lot of what I write is based off my initial opinions, and upon seeing Inferno for the first time in HD my mind was completely blown. When I watched Blue Underground's disc, I pulled out the Arrow disc for comparison, and have this to say.
The Blue Underground is definitely the better of the 2 transfer. That being said, the BU disc does have some minor print damage in places, and some softer spots throughout, however, it does have the original grain structure intact, and thus increased detail on the screen. The black levels also appear to be quite a bit deeper. The Arrow disc looks good, and sharp, but it appears that, at least, a little DNR was applied to the film.
So just to give you the run down Blue Underground has presented Inferno in a Sweet 1080p HD transfer preserving the films original theatrical aspect ratio, black levels are deep, and solid, flesh levels are accurate, and colors POP from the screen. There is film grain, and it is glorious! I can imagine that this is what Inferno looked like when it first projected in 1980, it possibly looks better.
There are 4 audio options available a 7.1 HD track, a 5.1 Surround EX, and 2.0 Dolby Surround Stereo track in English. There is also the films original Italian mono track. All the tracks here (and I did switch between them all) are excellent. The music, dialogue, and effects are nicely balanced throughout, and no background distortion or noise can be detected. There are 3 subtitles options English (for hearing impaired), French, and Spanish.
Blue Underground has put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Inferno, some have been carried over from the old Anchor Bay releases, but a few are new to this BD. The disc kicks off with an intro to the film by director Dario Argento, and then a few interviews the first Art and Alchemy with Leigh McCloskey runs roughly 15 minutes and is a good reflection on his work on Inferno. This is followed up with a 13 minute interview with Irene Miracle called Reflections of Rose. This is followed by an archival AB interview with Dario Argento and Lamberto (son of Mario) Bava that runs about 10 minutes and talks about their experiences on Inferno. The disc closes out with the films international trailer.
Inferno is a great piece of pure cinema. It is a dreamlike, twisted narrative, with bright colorful imagery, great gory set pieces, and a pulse pounding soundtrack courtesy of prog-rocker Keith Emerson. If you're reading this, you've probably seen it half a dozen times, and one more isn't going to hurt. If you haven't seen it, than what are you doing reading this? Pick up this Blue Underground Blu-ray, and start playing catch up! Highly Recommended!