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Inferno (1980)

R | | Horror | 2 April 1980 (USA)
An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches.


Dario Argento


Dario Argento (story and screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Leigh McCloskey ... Mark Elliot
Irene Miracle ... Rose Elliot
Eleonora Giorgi ... Sara
Daria Nicolodi ... Elise De Longvalle Adler
Sacha Pitoëff ... Kazanian (as Sacha Pitoeff)
Alida Valli ... Carol, the caretaker
Veronica Lazar ... The Nurse / Mater Tenebrarum
Gabriele Lavia ... Carlo
Feodor Chaliapin Jr. ... Professor Arnold / Dr. Varelli (as Feodor Chaliapin)
Leopoldo Mastelloni Leopoldo Mastelloni ... John, the Butler
Ania Pieroni ... Music Student
James Fleetwood James Fleetwood ... Cook
Rosario Rigutini Rosario Rigutini ... Man
Ryan Hilliard ... Shadow
Paolo Paoloni ... Music Teacher


Riddled with secret but horrid suspicion, the young American poet, Rose Elliot, writes to her brother and musicology student in Rome, Mark, about the startling findings in the dark and dank basement of her New York Art Deco apartment building. Pivoting around the cryptic knowledge hidden in the leather-bound book entitled "The Three Mothers", Rose is convinced that her aristocratic but damned abode is, in fact, an ancient coven for Mater Tenebrarum, the malevolent Mother of Darkness. Little by little, as the siblings delve deeper and deeper into the occult, a mysterious disappearance and an endless string of gruesome killings will bring Mark closer and closer to a surreal nightmare. Where do the long and shadowy corridors of Rose's building lead? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Come face to face with hell See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

2 April 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Inferno See more »


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Produzioni Intersound See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (heavily cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (Dolby Stereo) (5.0 Surround Sound) (L-R)| 3 Channel Stereo (5.0 Surround Sound) (L-R)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film was shot in three months. See more »


When the girl and the man are shown talking behind the door and we see their silhouettes, their mouths clearly don't fit with the words spoken at the moment. See more »


Sara: May I ask a strange question?
Mark Elliot: How strange?
See more »

Alternate Versions

For its UK cinema release cuts were made to shots of a cat eating a live mouse. The Fox video was cut by 20 secs with the same cinema cut plus an additional edit to a closeup of a cat's head being hit against a chair. The cuts were fully waived for the 2010 Arrow DVD. See more »


Referenced in A Head for Horror: Lamberto Bava on 'Macabre' (2001) See more »


Va' pensiero...
(from opera "Nabucco")
Music by Giuseppe Verdi'
Performed by Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai (as Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus of Rome Radio Televisione Italiana)
Chorus master by Gaetano Riccitelli
Conducted by Fernando Previtali
Courtesy of Fonit Cetra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A true example of style over substance
15 May 2011 | by dee.reidSee all my reviews

It can hardly be denied that Italian horror film director Dario Argento is a true master craftsman. His films are often visually arresting, with many strange and horrific sounds, imagery, and bizarre set decorations that really succeed in creating atmospheres of pure dread, evil, and terror. His "giallo" (the Italian word for "yellow") murder-mystery films are what are most-known around the world to horror fans, because they combine the typical whodunit with elements of horror and the supernatural; the best film of this genre that I've seen so far is Argento's "Suspiria" (1977), though I have yet to see the other highly regarded picture from this time, "Deep Red" (1975).

Argento's 1980 feature "Inferno" is a semi-sequel to his earlier "Suspiria"; "Inferno" is the second in a loose film trilogy known as the "Three Mothers," which began with "Suspiria," followed by "Inferno," and was concluded in 2007 with the long-delayed "The Mother of Tears." This loose trilogy surrounds the legend of three ancient witches living in the present-day - one in Germany ("Suspiria"), another in New York City (this film), and the third finally in Rome ("The Mother of Tears"). "Inferno," while visually arresting with astounding production values and horrific blood-lettings, is a mixed bag with little coherence in the plot.

I did not find Argento's earlier "Suspiria" to be a particularly well-acted or well-written film. Argento is largely a director of style over substance, but his style is usually the star of the show in most of his films, hence why actors and plot often seem secondary. What made that film so horrifying was its sounds, imagery, and soundtrack (by the Italian band Goblin). It was such a uniquely unsettling horror film experience that it terrified me to the bone when I watched it for the first time.

"Inferno" is alternatively set in Rome and New York City. Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) discovers the book "The Three Mothers" in New York City and comes to suspect that she is living in one of the buildings believed to house one of the Three Mothers. She writes to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) in Rome for him to come visit her. This sets in motion a series of events that plunges them into a horrifying world of murder and the supernatural as they try to uncover the truth about the Three Mothers.

A lot of events in "Inferno" seem random and off-putting and seem to interfere with the narrative with little in the plot connecting any of the events. For example, the beautiful Italian girl (Ania Pieroni) who shows up at different points while Mark is in Rome; she never speaks, he never speaks to her, and we know nothing about her. But she provides an interesting visual element in an otherwise dark and disturbing picture.

"Inferno" is incredibly well-made, but like I said even incoherence in the plot has its limits. "Suspiria" didn't have much of a coherent story, but Argento's style and use of secondary background elements (sound, imagery, music) were able to make you "experience" the picture in ways that were more than enough to make up for the picture's shortcomings. "Inferno" does have some neat camera and visual trickery that plunge you into the madness so that you feel like you're actually there experiencing everything the characters are witnessing.

There are also some creatively gruesome murders here and there (a disturbing factoid here is that Argento himself often likes to portray the hands of the killer in his films). There's even a disturbing sequence involving a crippled old man, cats and rats that is pretty extraordinary and has to be seen to be truly believed, even if it does seem a bit random. And there's another sequence involving Rose in an underwater moat that is just downright chilling.

"Inferno" is not as "hot" as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I thought it was a little cold for my liking, considering my experience with "Suspiria." Maybe it'll get better (and "hotter") on repeat viewings.


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