Inferno (1953)

ROY WARD BAKER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 1953. . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

A sunburnt Arizona desert produces the figures of a man and a woman putting their gear together and riding out on their horses, pulling behind them a third horse that does not have a human being sitting on it. After a nearly wordless introduction to this scenario, we discover that something much darker than a day’s promenade on the hot sand is underway: the woman () is married to a wealthy heir () who broke his leg after falling off his horse, and despite telling him that she and their mutual friend () are going for help, they have no intention of doing so.

The able-bodied couple have been having an illicit affair behind her husband’s back for some time, and now see their opportunity to be together, leaving Ryan to die upon the harsh terrain while they head back to civilization and prepare the story they will tell their peers and whatever authorities they encounter.

As they go through each treacherous step of their plan, we cut back to the barren landscape where Ryan puts aside his habits of privilege and ease and figures out how he will survive the heat and find food and water long enough to get himself back to safety and, possibly, even get a little revenge on the people close to him who have wronged him so.

Nervous about making sure the deed is done, Ludigan makes his way back to where he left his supposed friend, and is disappointed to learn that he’s doing alright for himself, which inspires the villain to put in more effort to take him out; the best thing about this is that it results in a very exciting fight sequence between the two male leads in a burning shack, a magnificent accomplishment of both editing and special effects that follows a tense and intriguing survival drama with a thrilling action climax.

Fox released this film in 3-D for extra-special eye-popping spectacle and, while it is a small chamber piece with nowhere near the epic-level firepower that you would expect such technological effort to merit, it would definitely have contributed to the sense of the main character’s dangerous isolation to have the brightly photographed settings pop off the screen at you.

Watching it in 2-D isn’t too bad a compromise, the crisp cinematography still looks great and the shadowy human morality blocking out the heat of the gorgeous sunlight still makes a vivid impression.

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