|Page 1 of 4:||   |
|Index||33 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The situation of isolation was taken to its extreme, in 1953, in a
powerful little film called 'Inferno,' which had the central character
forsaken, injured and entirely alone, in a burning desert in the middle
of nowhere... The film made better use of 3-D than any other film,
suggesting the lone handicapped figure in the vast space...
The powerful Robert Ryan was a rude, unrefined, spoiled and selfish millionaire who went on a desert expedition to seek manganese with his faithless wife Rhonda Fleming, and her worthless lover, William Lundigan...
Ryan broke a leg in a fall from his horse, and the other two went off and left him to die...
It seemed a certainty: There was no chance of anyone finding him in that large area of land, and anyway the lovers could delay a search... He had nothing to drink or eat. He could not even walk a pace...
The fascination of the story was the way in which all the characteristics which, at the start, had made Ryan so unlikeable gradually became sympathetic and, after a while, we became identified with the tense struggle to survive of this man whom we had begun by disliking and despising...
This was some achievement by writer, director and actor... Identification is essential to suspense... You must care about the character to share his dangers, and suspense vanishes the moment the tiny thought enters your mind: "He deserves what he gets."
It is easy to identify with the charm of a Cary Grant, the sincerity of a Gregory Peck, for example. But in 'Inferno' Ryan had to gather up our sympathy, build our identification, step by painful step with every crisis he overcame...
Even his initial impulse to survival was not particularly likable: a violent urge to live to revenge himself on his wife and her lover... But little by little this declared into a simple determination not to be beaten - either by Nature or by the runaways...
The film was suspense through the development of character in action and it was good stuff.
The best thing about Inferno is that, like the Aeneid, it jumps right into
the middle of the action. Out in a southwestern desert, under the baking
sun, lies Robert Ryan, with his leg broken and only a meager supply of food
and water. He's been left to die by his wife (Rhonda Fleming) and her lover
(William Lundigan). There's no backstory, no lead-up to the crucial events;
what little we need to know gets doled out as the movie advances, but never
Of course, anybody can be left to die in the desert by a philandering spouse, but it helps if you're a millionaire, like Ryan. We learn that he inherited his fortune and wonders whether he deserves it, and that he's a tough and private man who suffers no fools gladly (the part's basically a reworking of Ryan's Smith Ohlrig in Max Ophuls' Caught).
The rest of Inferno cross-cuts between Ryan's attempts to survive by his wits and Fleming's and Lundigan's to throw the local police and Ryan's business associates back in Los Angeles off track. After several days elapse, when it becomes apparent that Ryan may still be alive and on the move, Fleming and Lundigan decide that, in order to save themselves, they have to go back and finish the job....
Inferno was issued in 1953, the annus mirabilis of 3-D. Unlike most titles filmed in that short-lived gimmick, it stands pretty well on its own even the hurtling rocks, striking rattlers and flaming rafters stay effective without knocking viewers over the head. But basically it's a story of a man born to wealth who, to stay alive, must negotiate a deadly wilderness where money proves worthless. Watching Ryan do so is worth giving Inferno a look.
Inferno is a small but excellent 1953 film about a beautiful woman
(Rhonda Fleming) and her lover (William Lundigan) who leave the woman's
husband (Robert Ryan) alone in the desert with a broken leg, assuming
he'll croak. The story focuses on Ryan's character trying to survive in
the desert and what he learns about himself.
With gorgeous Rhonda Fleming in the movie, it's done in color. A chimpanzee could have played her part - there's precious little acting involved - but she certainly adds tremendous beauty to the production. She and another spectacular redhead, Arlene Dahl, both were getting larger roles in films at the time the studio system was winding down. Ten years earlier, they might have ruled the world. William Lundigan is appropriately cold-blooded as her horny lover, and Larry Keating is an appropriately concerned business associate.
But this is Ryan's film, and he's top-notch. His thoughts come over as voice-over, and you're pulling for him every step of the way, despite everyone describing him as unpleasant.
Excellent film, quite a surprise.
In the history of motion pictures only two ideas (as far as I know)
failed to catch on in improving the movies we see. One is the laughable
"Aroma-vision" that was tried out in the late 1950s with a film that
Peter Lorre and Desmond Elliot made called SCENT OF MYSTERY. People
just don't like certain odors that can be on the screen in films. But
the other was an 3-D, which should have succeeded. If you want to have
a more realism in movies, then you should have a movie where depth adds
some degree of reality. But 3-D was not used properly. The best
recalled uses are in grade z films like ROBOT MONSTER. The best uses of
the process were in Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL "M" FOR MURDER, in the
Vincent Price horror classic HOUSE OF WAX, and in INFERNO. But while
Hitchcock's and Price's films are well remembered (and seen
frequently), INFERNO has been generally ignored.
It stars Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Larry Keating, and Henry Hull. Ryan begins the film in one of his typically negative characterizations - a millionaire married to Fleming who treats everyone around him as a servant to do his bidding. Sort of like a follow up to his Smith Ohlrig in CAUGHT, only with a new bride. He is going on vacation, and he is accompanied by his wife and a guide played by Lundigan. But Fleming and Lundigan are having a love affair, and when Ryan is injured they realize that they can get rid of him, collect his fortune, and then marry. They leave the obnoxious millionaire in the desert with just a six shooter and a canteen with water. He also has a broken leg. They figure they can report he wandered off, they could not trace him, and in a week the police can find his corpse.
Ryan fools them. Always intelligent in his roles, he growls as soon as he is alone, "They think I'll drink up all my water!" He starts an enforced rationing. He also makes a crutch. Finally he shows his patience in becoming a careful hunter - carefully using his gun to kill game only when it is available. Soon he is able to start following the stars to get back to civilization. And his disappearance is not being casually dismissed by the discovery of his body by the authorities led by Carl Betz. And Fleming and Lundigan are beginning to get nervous - and a bit less lovey-dovey with each other.
But the best part of this film, aside from the careful script and performances, was director Roy Baker's brilliant use of 3-D. He wanted the size of that desert Ryan is marooned in to be really evident to the audience, and his shots of the miles of mesas and sand are deeply impressive. It adds to one's realization of just what Ryan is up against to survive. Actually it was the best use of the process in Hollywood movies, and it makes one regret that John Ford did not think of using the process in say THE SEARCHERS or TWO RODE TOGETHER. Ford's use of "Monument Valley" was always brilliant - imagine if it too had been in 3-D.
I really do wish that this excellent thriller was available on VHS or DVD. There is a tremendous amount of intensity and suspense to the entire film from start to finish. In fact, you really can't guess what the outcome will be. It is truly a game of "cat vs mouse". The casting is excellent! Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming and William Lundigan really do bring life to the characters that they play. The original is terrific and has a really good story line to it. It really surprises me that they haven't had a remake of it. I've only seen it once, but I'd have to say it is well worth seeing a second time. Believe me! You will positively be glued to the edge of your seat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Inferno' was originally filmed in 3D, but this film avoids the stupid
gimmicks that plagued so many films in that brief genre ... such as the
paddleballs that utterly ruined 'House of Wax' for me. In far too many 3D
films, the actors are constantly chucking objects at the audience. We get
none of that here, except for one medium close-up of Henry Hull flinging a
burning paraffin lamp at the camera.
'Inferno' is shown on television in flat 2D format. Good news: even in 2D, 'Inferno' is a taut thriller that's well worth your attention. Robert Ryan usually fails to impress me, but he gives a riveting performance here as a millionaire who's had everything given to him his entire life, but who now must learn self-reliance in order to survive.
Ryan is cast as millionaire Donald Carson III ... and the roman numeral is an obvious tip-off that Carson's wealth is inherited. Carson's sluttish wife Geraldine (a fine performance by the sexy and underrated Rhonda Fleming) has been openly carrying on an affair with Carson's overseer Duncan. The three of them go on a trip into the desert together, where Carson breaks his leg. It's never established how this happened: did Carson break his leg in a genuine accident, or did Duncan 'accidentally' break it for him? Anyway, Geraldine and Duncan have decided to maroon her husband in the desert, dooming him to slow death by exposure while Geraldine inherits his millions.
SLIGHT SPOILERS COMING. Carson must learn to fend for himself, in a situation where his money is useless. In a sterling perfomance, Robert Ryan gradually *earns* our sympathy. There's a suspenseful scene in which Carson, crippled and starving, tries to snare a jackrabbit. When he finally succeeds, we cheer for him. But then a raptor snatches away the rabbit that Carson earned. During another tense sequence, Carson must lower himself down a desert cliffside without damaging his broken leg.
Henry Hull is an actor whom I've always found very mannered. Hull was a good actor when he played highly stylised roles (such as the title role in 'Werewolf of London', or 'Miracles for Sale' in which he played a conjuror), but Hull tended to give overripe performances when he was cast as a realistic human being. In 'Inferno', he gives a histrionic turn as a Gabby Hayes-type old coot of a hermit who lives in the desert. Hull's performance here is probably similar to his Broadway turn as Jeeter Lester in 'Tobacco Road'.
In September 2003, I attended a 3D movie festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, where I saw 'Inferno' in its original format (with those silly cardboard glasses). As good as 'Inferno' is in flat format, it's even better in 3D. I'll go out on a limb and say that 'Inferno' is the greatest 3D movie ever. Underrated director Roy Ward Baker resists the urge to throw things at the 3D stereopticon cameras. Instead, he draws us *into* the frame, shooting the desert vistas in deep-focus tableaux that impress us with the vast width and length and depth of the desert in which Robert Ryan's crippled protagonist is trapped. There are several suspense films that effectively invoke claustrophobia, the fear of being trapped in an enclosed space. 'Inferno' is one of the very few films -- and the only 3D film -- to successfully instil in us a sense of the opposite fear: agoraphobia, the terror of being trapped in an *open* space, with no comforting walls or corners.
I have never seen any other film that uses the 3D process so effectively -- and with as much originality -- as it's used here. The fact that the 3D is used in the service of an excellent script and some fine performances -- instead of paddleball gimmicks -- makes this movie even more impressive, and more entertaining. I'll rate 'Inferno' 10 points out of 10. You'll enjoy it in 2D, but make every effort to see it in 3D.
Pretty inventive script, Robert Ryan helps pull off quite a bit of
voice over dialog, nice photography, (I did see it in 3D) well paced
there are a number of clever script/plot elements that keep it going
and a great fight scene(which features most of the 3D Fx in the movie).
Sort of a desert Film Noir really, well directed by the mostly always good Roy (Ward) Baker this holds up. There is constant cross cutting between Ryan's plight in the desert and the two villains swimming or eating and drinking that really builds your hatred of them and your siding with Ryan.
No mamsey pamsey character softening here, which keeps it tough, but reality based, throughout. It's not a cartoon at any moment which can happen with B films. Though also perhaps the limited character development keeps it slightly in the programmer category. Good music score by Paul Sawtell as well. This movie moves quickly doesn't have the soapy elements, or bloated running time, that killed off many color crime films in the 1950's.
This is one of the few movies where Robert Ryan, a hard-driving, rich, and
arrogant businessman, actually has the audience's sympathy. The gorgeous
Rhonda Fleming plays his conniving and faithless wife who ruthlessly strands
him in the desert with a broken leg. And Ms. Fleming is all-too-convincing
in the bad-girl role. The movie centers on Ryan's thoughts, feelings, and
actions as he attempts to survive this nightmarish ordeal. For awhile, his
revenge fantasies are the only things keeping him going, but things change.
Carl Betz and Larry Keating are quite good in pithy supporting roles. And,
the suspense keeps our interest throughout. The makers of Cast Away should
have watched this a few times before making their exercise in ennui, also
about finding the will to survive in almost impossible
Only one negative comment: William Lundigan is much too old and too refined as Fleming's lover-conspirator who gets a nasty attack of conscience late in the game. Someone rugged such as Rock Hudson (who was in his pre-Doris-Day days) or Lloyd Bridges, or even Chuck Connors would have been a much better choice.
That said, Inferno is a well-made and memorable film.
I saw this movie when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. All I remember about it is that it was about a man (Robert Ryan) with the unusual and most unfortunate position of being stranded in a desert (a real inferno) and at the same time being hunted down by a cheating wife and her murderous lover. Ryan delivers a top notch performance in this suspenseful and highly dramatic film. This is a very good and satisfying movie.
I think Robert Ryan is one of the greatest actors of his time and its a shame that he seems to be forgotten in todays movie society, This is am excellent example of Ryans acting prowess and shows how the will to live is so strong despite being betrayed and abandoned in a place with out hope. I would say this is a must see for people interested in Robert Ryans acting and his excellent ability to make it all seem so real. I like the fact that he never gives up despite all the odds thrown against him when adultery alone makes most people lose the will to carry on. I have seen this movie twice now and have been riveted to the TV both times. Years ago having seen Robert Ryan in a few movies I thought he was OK but this movie proves he was much more than that and I look forward to discovering him in his other movies I have yet to see.
|Page 1 of 4:||   |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|