Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

INFERNO (1980)

The sinister Manhattan apartment house of Inferno
INFERNO (1980). Director: Dario Argento.

In the second of his supernatural "three mothers" films -- a sequel to Suspiria -- it develops that an architect named Varelli built three dwellings for each of these three sinister and powerful witches: the Mothers of Tears, Sighs, and Darkness. One of those dwellings is an apartment house in Manhattan [another dwelling is the German dance academy featured in Suspiria], wherein a young lady, Rose (Irene Miracle), becomes fascinated by a book about the mothers written many years ago by Varelli. Her investigations prove her undoing, and after she disappears, her brother, Mark (Leigh McCloskey), a music student in Rome, returns to New York to find out what happened to her. Inferno proceeds like a nightmare, which may have been the intention, meaning that the film has little internal logic, and a poor narrative structure, and which also makes it off-putting to certain viewers. Like Suspiria, Inferno betrays a slasher sensibility even if the films are quite different from Deep Red. Murders occur both in New York and in Rome, where Sara (Eleonora Giorgi), one of Mark's fellow students, opens a letter from Rose, learns about the Three Mothers, and is butchered along with a friendly male neighbor, Carlos (Gabriele Lavia from Deep Red), to the strains of Verdi's "Va pensiero" chorus from Nabucco. [Nabucco just happens to be on Carlos' record player after Sara listens to it in class!] One assumes Rose and Mark are independently wealthy considering he's a student, she's a poet, and the apartment Rose lives in is positively gigantic. There are more murders, an attack by rats on a bookseller drowning cats, and appearances by Alida Valli (this time as the apartment building's caretaker), Daria Nicolodi as a wealthy neighbor, and Feodor Chaliapin Jr., the son of the famous operatic bass, as Varelli/Professor Arnold. There's an odd variation of different musical styles throughout the picture, and it features Mario Bava-like lighting effects. All in all, Inferno holds the attention, has several creepy scenes (such as Rose exploring a flooded basement under the building), but it's perhaps too weird and confusing for its own good.

Verdict: Argento treading water. **1/2.

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