Inferno on DVD & Blu-ray

Monday, 13 September 2010 06:48

Dario Argento’s “Inferno” is the spooky and blood-drenched middle part of his classic “Three Mothers” trilogy, the other two chapters being “Suspiria” (1977) and “Mother of Tears” (2007). “Inferno” concerns the hazardous exploits of Rose (Irene Miracle), a young poetess who buys a dusty, leather-bound volume from a local antiques dealer and finds a terrifying, occult link between the book and her own apartment block.

Entitled “The Three Mothers”, the tome tells of three mysterious witches called the Mothers of Sighs, Tears and Darkness.  Each Mother has an abode in one of three separate cities across the world, and each house has a hidden key that can unlock the dark secrets they contain. As Rose embarks on her adventure to track down the keys, to her horror she soon realises that some secrets are better left buried. Fans of Argento’s other tales of terror will quickly settle into the bizarre but magnificent imagery and gory, graphic murder scenes featured in “Inferno”.

Inferno comes to DVDMost of the movie takes place in Rose’s New York tenement, a towering, castle-like building. Inside, Argento lights everything in stark primary colours, especially red and blue. This lends the interior shots a disorienting, fairground fun-house feel, a sensation strengthened by the long corridors and tall ceilings, and an abundance of secret passages.

Although the film is set in modern times, it establishes a gothic aura thanks to typical occult trappings such as dozens of cats (which take a distinct, aggressive disliking to one character!), mysterious alchemists brewing potions, dusty and rusty basements, and copious cobwebs. Argento somehow makes the transition between safe, bustling exterior scenes and the nightmarish world of the apartment block feel smooth and natural. Where one’s home is normally one’s secure castle, here the home is associated with danger, death and dreadful, unknowable powers, and it is distinctly unnerving.

Irene Miracle (“Midnight Express”, “Puppetmaster”) is joined by a cast that includes Dario Nicolodi (“Phenomena”, “Tenebre”) as Elise, Rose’s friend and neighbour, Leigh McCloskey (Dallas, Babylon 5) as Rose’s brother Mark and Eleonora Giorgi as Sara, Mark’s friend at music college. They all get sucked into the mystery, which unfortunately means that they are stalked by a bizarre, murderous man with black gloves and talon-like hands. The acting is average at best, but the stilted performances fit in uncannily with the warped nature of the film.

There are plenty of gruesome death scenes, including several bloody stabbings, a horrid incident with a makeshift guillotine that is not quite sharp enough, and one particularly nasty episode involving hundreds of famished sewer rats, a disabled man and a crazed fast food salesman! The gore is not especially realistic, thanks partly to the garish fake blood, but it is delivered with gusto and heaps of tension.

The Blu-ray version reviewed here is fantastically sharp and clean, with only very rare moments where the picture quality dips below par. Darker scenes retain good levels of clarity, and the HD format really brings out the detail in the magnificent sets. The sound quality is pretty good, too, with Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame) taking care of scoring duties. His loopy, progressive rock version of Verdi’s “Va pensiero” is a highlight.

Special features exclusive to the Blu-ray format include a superior 5.1 DTS audio option and a Q&A session at a fan screening, featuring Miracle, film critic Tim Lucas (creator of Video Watchdog magazine), and composer Emerson. Copious standard definition bonus components shared with the DVD edition include:

  • Introduction by star Daria Nocolodi
  • Dario’s Inferno featurette
  • Acting in Hot Water – An interview with Dario Nicolodi
  • The Other Mother: Making “The Black Cat” – director Luigi Cozzi discusses his unofficial third chapter of the “Three Mothers” trilogy
  • X Marks the Spot – Argento remembers Bava (easter egg)
  • Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava discuss Inferno
  • Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror – an excellent documentary on the director’s career, narrated by film critic Mark Kermode and including sound-bites by none-other than John Carpenter, George A. Romero and Tom Savini (amongst others)
  • The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery
  • Arrow’s usual selection of a poster, reversible sleeves, postcards and a collector’s booklet are also thrown in, once more making it a fan-tastic package! Special mention goes to High Rising Productions for sprucing the special features up with such amusingly animated title sequences.

“Inferno” (1980) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray (both on two discs) courtesy of Arrow Video. The running time of the main feature is 102 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’ and the movie retails for £15.99 on DVD and £22.99 on Blu-ray, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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