Inferno (1953)

Inferno (1953) is a vivid Vista-Vision survival epic revenge desert color film noir from the baffling files of bright and gaudy three dimensional 50s.

Inferno however is saved from most of the widescreen peril of most color noir and despite employing a moderately beige and drab process, manages to follow its noir roots well, and wear its hard-boiled pants hitched right.

As a superior vehicle for noir's captain of the tough-side Robert Ryan, Inferno offers perils and deceits and desert sun and rolls out hard with its dangerous tycoon narrative, as Robert Ryan with a broken leg is ditched in the desert to di of exposure by his scheming missus and her lousy lover.

In the rugged expanse of the desert, a formidable and driven business magnate finds himself ensnared in a dire predicament. Live or die, your choice tough guy.

Following a treacherous betrayal orchestrated by his conniving wife and her covetous paramour, the tycoon is left incapacitated with a broken leg, abandoned to face the harsh elements of the unforgiving wilderness. As the scorching sun beats down upon him and the desolate sands stretch endlessly before his eyes, the tycoon grapples with the chilling realization that his fate hangs precariously in the balance, at the mercy of ruthless betrayal and merciless desert terrain.

In this rare cinematic gem, Robert Ryan, typically cast as a hard-driving, affluent, and disdainful businessman, unexpectedly garners the audience's empathy. Portraying a character whose plight elicits genuine sympathy, Ryan's performance captivates as he navigates the treacherous landscape of betrayal and survival. Opposite him, the stunning Rhonda Fleming embodies the role of his conniving and unfaithful wife with chilling authenticity, adding depth and intrigue to the narrative.

The film unfolds as a gripping exploration of Ryan's innermost thoughts, emotions, and actions as he confronts the harrowing challenge of survival amidst the desolate desert terrain. Initially fueled by revenge fantasies, Ryan's journey takes a transformative turn as he grapples with the stark realities of his predicament. Carl Betz and Larry Keating deliver commendable performances in supporting roles, infusing the narrative with wit and depth.

Director Roy Ward Baker would go on to direct many Hammer horror classics.

Throughout the film, the suspense remains palpable, holding the audience's interest captive until the very end. In contrast to other survival-themed films, such as "Cast Away," which veer towards existential ennui, this cinematic masterpiece offers a riveting portrayal of resilience and the indomitable human spirit. Indeed, it serves as a testament to the enduring power of the will to survive against all odds, a theme that resonates deeply with audiences across generations.

INFERNO emerges as a quintessential artefact of the early 1950s 3D cinematic wave, a phenomenon that flickered briefly before fading into obscurity. Recently restored to 3D Blu-ray by Paramint, a boutique Scottish DVD production company, this film beckons enthusiasts of vintage 3D cinema, myself included, to indulge in its visual splendour and narrative prowess, reminiscent of classics such as the iconic HOUSE OF WAX.

This cinematic gem proves to be a revelation, boasting a survival epic narrative that transcends its time, alongside some of the most visually stunning 3D effects I've ever encountered. The vast desert landscapes stretch endlessly before the viewer, creating an immersive depth unparalleled in the realm of 3D cinema. Additionally, the judicious use of "pop out of the screen" effects, particularly during the climactic sequences, adds an extra layer of excitement and engagement.

Beyond its technical prowess, INFERNO stands as a compelling thriller in its own right, with or without the 3D embellishments. Robert Ryan delivers a compelling performance as the tough protagonist, betrayed and left to perish in the unforgiving desert by his treacherous wife and her lover. His relentless struggle for survival forms the crux of the narrative, drawing viewers into a gripping tale of resilience and determination. Moreover, the intricately woven subplot involving his deceitful wife adds depth and intrigue to the storyline, complemented by strong performances from the ensemble cast.

Ultimately, INFERNO culminates in a modern-feeling action-packed climax, striking a perfect balance between tension and spectacle. Its ability to captivate audiences both visually and narratively cements its status as a standout example of 1950s cinema, offering a timeless viewing experience enriched by the allure of 3D technology.

Robert Ryan's portrayal of embittered characters in his filmography often rendered him challenging to rally behind, given their stoic and disillusioned dispositions that eschewed conventional sympathy.

However, in INFERNO, Ryan's character, a wealthy husband, undergoes a harrowing ordeal at the hands of his treacherous wife and her paramour, leaving him stranded in the unforgiving desert with a debilitating leg injury. As he navigates the treacherous terrain, his plight becomes increasingly desperate, eliciting a profound sense of empathy from viewers compelled to root for his survival against insurmountable odds.

Indeed, the dire circumstances thrust upon Ryan's character in INFERNO leave little room for anything but complete sympathy, as his struggle for survival becomes a gripping focal point driving the film's narrative forward

The 3-D effects come packed into the later parts of the film but include:

  • 3-D Rocks
  • 3-D Torch
  • 3-D Lantern
  • 3-D Cup
  • 3-D Airplane Nose
  • 3-D Gun
  • 3-D Chair
  • 3-D Falling Timbers 

Moreover, the most intriguing moments in the film not only alleviate the tension inherent in the protagonist's predicament but also infuse elements of film noir and melodrama into the adventure, enriching the viewing experience with layers of complexity and depth. Through these scenes, the film transcends its genre conventions, offering audiences a captivating exploration of human resilience amidst adversity.

Robert Ryan's performance in "INFERNO" is nothing short of Robert Ryanesque masterful, as he imbues his character with a sardonic internal monologue that adds layers of Ryan to his portrayal. Throughout the film, Ryan skilfully conveys the character's profound realization of his dire predicament – abandoned to a gruesome demise amidst the harsh desert landscape – with a depth that is palpable both in his facial expressions and physical demeanour.

Ryan's external performance radiates with an authenticity that captures the sheer gravity of the situation, as he grapples with the chilling reality of his impending fate. Yet, amidst the despair, there shines through a morbid sense of humour, a glimmer of the trademark Robert Ryan smarminess that serves as a coping mechanism to maintain his sanity in the face of adversity.

Examples abound of Ryan's deft delivery of deadpan sarcasm and wry wit, as he navigates the treacherous terrain of his predicament. From contemplating the potential use of currency to start a fire, to acknowledging the grim inevitability of setting his broken leg, Ryan's character exudes a dry humor that adds a touch of levity to the otherwise grim circumstances. Even in the face of dwindling water supplies, his optimistic quip about the timing of his cigarette shortage reflects a resilience that is as admirable as it is darkly humorous.

Moreover, Ryan's internal musings, delivered with a blend of psychopathy and wry amusement, elevate his performance to a level of grandeur rarely seen. Whether contemplating hunting deer or ordering a drink from an imaginary bartender, Ryan's portrayal encapsulates the essence of survival with a poignant blend of wit and gravitas.

In essence, Robert Ryan's performance in "INFERNO" transcends the confines of traditional character portrayal, offering viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of a man facing his mortality with a mixture of defiance and dark humour, making his journey through the desert a captivating and unforgettable cinematic experience.

Inferno (1953)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Genres - Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 12, 1953 (USA - Unknown), Aug 12, 1953 (USA)  |  Film Format - VistaVision |  Run Time - 83 min.  | Inferno (1953) at Wikipedia

3-D Films 1914 - 2004

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