‘Inferno’ by Roy Ward made in 1953 is a real rarity. The 3D movie has not been shown often. A few years ago it received a second life in a restored version. Now it’s possible to see it digitally in beautiful colors, sharp and crisp as never before. At the Barbican, London it was part of a retrospective of 3D’s golden age. It shows that 3D-films were not just cheaply done action and horror films. The film also proves, that 3D had its difficulties when characters look like puppets or when the shoulders of an actor appear to be meter deep.
The strength of ‘Inferno’ is that it is a combination of a desert film and a film noir. The plot is about a rich millionaire, who is dumped in the desert by his wife and her lover in a drunken and injured state. The movie actually starts where other film noirs with similar plots would be at the middle or the end of the second act – a sign that this story has been told so often in the 10 years since Visconti’s ‘Ossessione’.
In the beginning, Robert Ryan lying with an injured leg without his booze and only a few drops water searched for by his wife and her companion resembles the situation of the injured bank robber played by James Mason in Carol Reed’s ‘Odd Man Out’ . The only difference is that the ones who search for Robert Ryan do not necessarily want to save him. The story is not told without irony. There are quite a few twists. Searchers become persecutors and to describe what lovers suddenly do to each other when the plan goes wrong would be a spoiler.
The final showdown in a burning cabin is very impressive and effectful – from a 3D perspective, but also as there were no special effects involved in its making. This is a physical and moral inferno. I do not want to describe the last scene further, but just think about the ending of another Carol Reed’s movie, ‘The Third Man’ turned up side down.