on 17 May 2011
Not sure about the general audience of this kind of stuff today but I've been watching these films for over twenty years and have gone from sitting through terrible quality bootleg tapes (because uncut versions were not available in England at the time - censorship is nowhere near the problem it was, thankfully) through to Digital Versatile Discs (er, DVD to the general public), sometimes buying several editions of a film, and finally Blu-ray. I couldn't afford laserdiscs but gleefully read about those in mags like Dark Side, Is It Uncut?, etc - the approximate 400 line resolution of laserdiscs is now hopelessly outdated, but fans would eagerly pay anything up to £100 at film fairs for their favourites in presentations that far exceeded the quality of the then consumer champion of VHS.
Inferno is an pretty surreal tale of the uncanny, with a series of morbid events occurring that can make little sense in conventional terms, and even on multiple viewings you still wonder at the strangeness of it all. Not quite as bombastic as Suspiria, this is nevertheless an artistically experimental film with occasionally brutal killings and an otherworldly feel to what the characters are going through. It's not for all, but the movie has gathered a critically positive reaction over the years and is now generally considered to be a bit of a classic. Personally I tend to have a good time experiencing the admittedly slightly crazy middle section of Argento's Three Mothers trilogy.
Now, Inferno is one of those movies that I've seen in several editions and before buying I checked image comparisons between the currently available Blue Underground Blu-ray, and the Arrow equivalent. As the more diplomatic of reviewers put it, it appears to be a matter of taste what you might prefer. I chose the Arrow because its less excessive contrast revealed more in darker areas of the film (and lets face it, if you want to increase or decrease the contrast, colour, brightness or anything else, you have a remote control available to aid you in this respect). Higher contrast can add the illusion of a sharper picture but this is mainly derived from a rapid gradation between darker and lighter areas of the screen, rather than gradual (and therefore apparantly softer). So we get a very good 1080p image on both discs, though sharpness and colours appear to be a little different. I watched the Arrow disc on a 90 inch projected screen (an unforgiving medium one might have thought) and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. It's now uncut and the detail far outweighs the previous Anchor Bay/BU DVDs, as to be expected. Many complain about 'DNR' in digitally presented films (as if they possess some sort of insider insight into it) but I didn't find anything distracting here (hey, remember the times when we sat down to enjoy the FILM itself, rather than trying to identify smeared pixels and all that?). Audio is provided in the form of a DTS-HD surround track in English, a stereo English track for purists, and a mono Italian track (I haven't sampled the latter yet), and everything is fine here, limitations of the period aside.
We also get the fairly enjoyable and informative Eye For Horror documentary (runs about 1 hour) about Dario and his films, a complete trailer reel of variable quality for ALL of Dario's directed films, including Five Days in Milan, a pretty interesting 30 minute Q&A session with Tim Lucas (providing some great background information), Irene Miracle and Emerson (the composer), a short piece where Luigi Cozzi talks about The Black Cat (a pretty much lost film that paid homage to Argento and the Three Mothers films), interviews with Dario and Daria Nicolodi, and a couple of other titbits (about half the extras are in standard definition, on disc 2 (which is a DVD)) - this is a pretty comprehensive package all round. Also you get four cover artwork options, a postcard set of promotional Inferno artworks, a poster, and a booklet with notes from Alan Jones. Packaging is a standard Blu-ray plastic case (with hinge inside for the second disc) inside a neatly designed cardboard outer case.
So, loads to complain about there, eh? Well, yes, if you read some of the aforementioned comments online. All of this is available for no more than about £15 online (i.e. a lot less than one might have paid for a far inferior laserdisc 15 years ago), it's either the top of the pile or, at worst, second in the pile of best editions for Inferno, and yet out of the woodwork crawls hatemongers that you would have thought had been bought up as terrorists, so vehemently adamant are they that they'll bring down Arrow and anything that they release. I'm completely confused! Nobody else in the UK is committed to cult cinema on Blu-ray like this company, and even if some of their releases come in second place, does that truly deserve the flak attack that arrives with every release? Normal people either buy or they don't buy - a fairly straightforward process. Even if there's not much wrong with one of Arrow's releases then some 'fans' will complain about the artwork! Even if they hadn't presented 4 options for people to CHOOSE from, is this adequate critism and how often do people start up hate threads for other DVD/BD companies due to the cover artworks?!? I feel sad that we the cult-film buying public have come down to that, if indeed those people who are expressing their very deep concerns are to be considered as such.
I've got four or five of their films on Blu-ray so far, and as with Inferno I've been pleased with all of them, though I still consider each release on its own merits (e.g. I certainly picked up the BU edition of Crystal Plumage), but for the one I don't go for? I think I'll leave all of my anger and hate inside for things that really deserve it...
Anyway, make your own minds up, but overall Inferno gets a pretty outstanding release for home cinema with this Blu-ray Disc.
on 14 September 2010
Finally here it is, "Inferno", the sequel to "Suspiria" and in many ways a tough competitor for the legendary film brought to us in a two disc special edition, uncut for the first time in the UK from an HD transfer. For those who don't already know this film, the second in a trilogy is about three evil witches who wish to rule the world, this film focuses on the mother of darkness spreading evil and destroying all who are in her way from a New York hotel and the backstory of the alchemist who created the houses of the three mothers, its a surreal and bizarre experience visually similar to some of Mario Bava's films (think "Blood and Black Lace" or "Kill Baby... Kill!") but somewhat different in style and subject matter, its distinctly Argento but not quite like his giallo, one of his best in my opinion.
Now to the specifics of this current edition, included here are a choice of four covers, the one most advertised is all new artwork and to be blunt is abysmal, it completely misleads one into taking a haunting, serious atmospheric horror for some kind of sex sleaze film, now I'm a Franco fan so it goes without saying I don't mind those type of films but the cover does the film no justice, this quibble aside there are four reversible covers and the other three look pretty good so switch the cover and problem solved (though it seems daft for Arrow to choose that cover to market the film), also included is a two sided poster (sadly one side is the new artwork but the other is from the UK quad and looks cool) an interesting mini booklet and six postcards, the transfer as mentioned earlier is HD and looks pretty good, you can choose a number of audio tracks including the Italian track with English subtitles, I watched in english stereo and it sounded great but can't comment on the 5.1 as I've an insufficient surround system.
The features on disc one are good, one is hidden on the main menu (highlight setup and press up) where Argento talks about Bava though sadly not in much detail, Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi both get special features of around 15 minutes where they reflect on the film and their careers in general and Luigi Cozzi talks about his version of "The Black Cat" which is seen a semi-sequel but in his eyes more a tribute to the series, one huge complaint is that Blu-Ray gets an extra feature where Irene Miracle, Keith Emerson and Tim Lucas give their thoughts on the film, this sort of format pushing is really irritating and not what I'd expect from Arrow who's copy of "City of the Living Dead" was perfect both on DVD and Blu-Ray and has really left me disheartened as to the companies supposed fan loyalties, disc two has an old Argento documentary An Eye for Horror which is great for those just getting into his work but many older fans will have seen it before, Argento and Lamberto Bava appear on another feature (the one from the old Anchor Bay US disc) which is quite a good one and its wrapped up with a huge Argento trailer reel.
In conclusion this is without doubt a great edition of "Inferno" alhough I can't condone either the terrible cover (switch it and ignore it, no big deal I guess) nor the missing feature on the DVD, If you've got a Blu-Ray player you probably won't care as you'll pick up the Blu-Ray disc but absolute completists still not HD compatible might want to hold out until they've upgraded for the extra feature.
Note: US company Blue Underground have now put out a Blu-ray and DVD which has a tad less features but a better transfer and German company Camera Obscura intend to put this film out on Blu-ray in the coming month's so you may wish to hold out to see which is best before buying with public opinion largely swaying towards the German release which promises an all new HD transfer supervised by the films cinematographer to look its absolute best and an exclusive 80 minute documentary.
on 29 December 2013
I'm a little bit of an Argento fan, so I freely admit going into this with bias. I absolutely adore Suspiria, so it's only natural that I'd be interested in sitting down and soaking up the sequel (a movie that has been bafflingly difficult to get hold of in the UK over the years). The Arrow release of Inferno has given me a slice of Argento's chromatic nightmare pie for Christmas - one that has proved to be a lot better than I expected.
Mark Elliott, a musicology student studying in Rome, recieves a letter from his sister in New York filled with seemingly paranoid ramblings about witches and the apartment building she lives in there. Travelling to the US (and seemingly haunted by eerie events along the way) Mark finds his sister has vanished, and when he tries to find out what has happened to her the other distinctly odd inhabitants of the building begin to turn up dead. All roads lead back to an ancient book, The Three Mothers, and the confessions of an alchemist who was responsible for building the homes of three witches. Mark discovers that his sister has been living as a tenant of one of them, and the sorceress is preparing for an inevitable date with destiny, one she intends to drag eveyone who has discovered her secret along with too. Will our rather hapless hero discover the truth, and if he does, will he wind up joining everyone else in the fires of damnation?
Inferno is classic Argento nigtmare fuel. It is ruled, much as Susperia was, by a hazy, disjointed waltz towards a conslusion, much like someone waking up from a bad dream and remembering fragments of it as they pass into wakefulness. Anyone going into this film expecting a solid, conclusive narrative is going to walk away disappointed and probably baffled. While there is certainly a progression from A to B to C through the movie, it is one broken up with vignettes and sudden bouts of violence that seem to come out of nowhere. Characters connected to the plot seem to fall out of the air like snowflakes, as do the sinister agents of Mater Tenebrarum (including a beautiful woman holding a cat and speaks silently, a bookbinding shadowy giant with claws, and most bizarre of all a knife-happy hamburger chef), and Argento once again hits us with creepy crawlies and household pets-gone-bad. Inferno is, if nothing else, a brilliant attempt to make an experience more akin to viewing someone else's nightmare than sitting down and watching a film.
Visually, the film is a feast of semiotics and colour; sets and lighting segregate the movie world into stark reds, frigid blues and sickly greens on cue, and throw into this shrieking bags of drowning cats, men being nibbled to death by hundreds of rats, long shadows on walls and heroines being chased down staircases and along corridors, the whole thing is filled with images that stay with you long after the movie's conclusion. It also features a signature prog-rock soundtrack, this time by Keith Emmerson, which is much less subtle and tinkly than Argento's own score for Suspiria, and more full-on progressive bombast running wild with Verdi. Inferno, whether it makes sense to you or not, is a menacing banquet of colour and sound.
This is also the first movie I've picked up from Arrow. I've got to admit, their lurid, T&A heavy new covers to their releases put me off massively, like they're trying to make all their catalogue look like tawdry grindhouse flicks or cheap VHS bootlegs from the 80's. However, I was extremely surprised by the serious quality of the package within; replete with great extras, a seriously sharp print of the film, and a crystal-clear soundtrack. Plus the covers are all reversable and interchangable, so I have the best of everything in one DVD. I've heard that Arrow's quality can be patchy, but this one at least is absolutely bang-on. So, whether you're an Argento fan looking for a potentially-definitive version for your collection, or you're looking for something a little more unusual and challenging than your average cut of horror, give Inferno a whirl... the flames will keep you nice and warm at the very least.
on 21 March 2015
A young man studying in Rome receives a letter from his sister in New York asking him to come as she's scared and needs his help. Upon getting there he discovers his sister missing and finds out that the apartment building once home to a the mother of darkness.
Dario Argento's 1980 sequel to his 1977 classic Suspiria. Some great cinematography, colours, architecture really is a strong aspect to the film, the also has a very ethereal feel to it with the Keith Emerson soundtrack adding to the overall theme of the picture. The death sequence's are striking and also genuinely suspenseful, the central park scene is probably the best but all are great. The climax builds the tension expertly, Leigh McCloskey wondering through the building with each revelation leading to a joyfully chilling finale. Performed well the two American leads McCloskey & Miracle are good but Alida Valli is great. The main problem for me was how incoherent the narrative was, at times the story coheres and the viewer moves along with it, but mostly the story moves from set piece to set piece and the narrative takes second place, meaning you lose focus on it with only again the cinematography keeping interest.
A truly wonderful film for looking at just don't invest your time trying to make sense of the plot. Although there is violence it isn't graphic or gory so its inclusion on the video nasties list is a real mystery as it didn't deserve it.
on 18 May 2010
"Inferno" (the Italian word for Hell) is the second installment in Dario Argento's "Three Mothers" trilogy and the follow-up to his classic, "Suspiria". The Three Mothers are a deadly triumvirate of witches that live in three special houses designed by an architect and alchemist called Varelli - Mater Suspiriorum (The Mother of Sighs) lives in Freiburg, Mater Tenebrarum (The Mother of Shadows) lives in New York and Mater Lachrymarum (The Mother Of Tears) lives in Rome.
"Suspiria" focused on The Mother of Sighs and "Inferno" mainly deals with The Mother of Shadows in New York but we do briefly see The Mother of Tears in some scenes set in Rome in "Inferno" as well.
"Inferno" begins in New York with a young woman called Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) reading an old book called The Three Mothers by E. Varelli. She becomes intrigued by the legend of the witches and decides to try and find out more. What strange secrets does the large apartment building hold where she lives? Unfortunately, her curiosity leads to her being brutally murdered on a stormy April night. Before she died, Rose contacted her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey), a music student in Rome, and he travels to New York to find out what is going on and ends up as bemused as the rest of us!!!
If there was ever a film where style spectacularly triumphs over substance then "Inferno" is it. This film is mainly just a series of amazing set-pieces with no real coherent, driving narrative but you end up not really worrying about the plot (or lack of it) because, first of all, the film looks so beautiful and, secondly, Argento is such a skillful film maker that he can tell a story purely visually and he can sometimes make even the most mundane scenes seem interesting. A prime example of this is the scene in Rome when one of Mark's friends takes a taxi ride in the rain. In any other film such a scene would be ordinary, or boring even, but in "Inferno" this scene becomes something special thanks to the use of colour, lighting and music. By the way, the taxi driver is the same bloke who drives the taxi that picks up Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) at the airport at the beginning of "Suspiria".
Like "Suspiria", "Inferno" was shot using Three-Strip Technicolor, a type of film stock that is meant to highlight the primary colours. This technique, coupled with Argento's incredible use of lighting, gives "Inferno" a surrealistic, dream-like quality that is perfect for its bizarre subject matter. Prog-rock keyboard legend, Keith Emerson (from "The Nice" and "Emerson, Lake & Palmer") contributes a wonderful orchestral music score that enhances the proceedings immensely. Keith has composed quite a few great film scores over the years but his score for "Inferno" must rank as one of his very best. Keith's music in this film ranges from being gentle and beautiful to being powerful and VERY frightening.
I think that it seems to be quite a common practice in horror cinema (especially in Italian horror films) to throw in a few gruesomely-inventive murders if the story starts to become a bit dull and "Inferno" certainly has its fair share of fiendish killings. A man and woman are brutally stabbed to death in an apartment, another woman is attacked by a clowder of vicious cats, one hapless dude has his eyeballs pulled out of their sockets and, best of all, a weird book seller is attacked and bitten by hordes of hungry rats whilst he is trying to drown a sackful of cats in New York's Central Park during a lunar eclipse and he is then hacked to death by a hot dog vendor (no, I'm not making this up)!!!
I guess it was scenes like these that were responsible for "Inferno" making its may onto the DPP's official "Nasty List" in the UK in the early 1980s resulting in the film being banned on video in the UK for a number of years. If you look closely enough though, there is also a fair degree of deliberate, underlying humour in this film.
So, to sum up "Inferno", it is a visually-stunning, often violent and occasionally terrifying piece of cinema that possesses a nightmarish quality. It is ultimately a marvellous achievement by Argento where style is victorious over content by a huge margin. "Inferno" certainly lives up to its title too during the fiery climax. In fact there are few other horror movies that can match the visual splendour of "Inferno". Its predecessor, "Suspiria", is one and Roger Corman's "The Masque Of The Red Death" and Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" are two others that spring to mind but all of these films belong to a special, select group of movies that are beautiful to behold.
This DVD version from Anchor Bay USA presents the film uncut in its correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Fox Video's 1993 VHS tape was slightly cut - a few seconds of footage was removed from a scene where a cat is eating a mouse! Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't cats normally do that sort of thing?
This movie has also been released on DVD by Blue Underground and another DVD release from Arrow Video is imminent. All I can say is that the picture quality on Anchor Bay's disc is excellent and the film looks superb. Extras include a short introduction to the film by Dario Argento, a trailer, a stills gallery and talent biographies. "Inferno" is definitely an essential film to have in your collection if you are a fan of Dario Argento and Italian horror films.
on 25 February 2012
Being the huge Argento fanboy that I am, I ordered this Arrow Blu-ray along with my own country's version released by Blue Underground. After watching both twice, I personally prefer the Arrow, which surprised me because after much research on-line it seems most people prefer the Blue Underground. Even stranger, I've compared screencaps of both releases from review sites and actually preferred the Blue Underground version in the still images, but for some reason this Arrow release looks better in motion. I think the color palette plays an important part in conveying the atmosphere in this film, so it's very important to get it right. I found the Blue Underground's colors dark and bold (more 'horror movie' style) while the Arrow's were bright and almost neon (more 'dream-like'). Comparing the two, I find the Arrow's color palette suits the film better for me. The Blue Underground release seemed almost too dark in some places and the colors, while bold and beautiful, just weren't as bright and surreal as the Arrow's. I guess it's a simple question of if you like the dark, bold colors or the bright ones, but I know which one I preferred. I've also heard a lot of negative comments about Arrow's use of DNR, however there are a lot of scenes in this Arrow release that contain a good amount of grain in them so these accusations may be unfounded. I don't think they got carried away with the DNR--most shots just look cleaner, and as for the accusations the characters look "waxy", the flesh tones look fine to me.
I'll also add that the sound on this release is noticeably better than the Blue Underground, and I don't even have a sound system hooked up, just my regular TV speakers and I could still tell the difference.
on 7 September 2012
Before purchasing this disc I read many reviews about the Arrow version and the Blue Underground version.
I also viewed many screen caps of the differing discs and personally I preferred the Arrow version.
This is a personal opinion and I'm sure many would disagree with me. It seems that 'Arrow Bashing' has almost become a national sport in this country.
Now I don't profess to be an expert on the differing quality in picture but I was pleased with the Arrow disc. Since buying I have had the opportunity to view the Blue Underground disc which a friend had and I am still quite content with my decision.
There have been versions of films by Blue Underground which have been much better than their Arrow counterparts ("Deep Red" being one example) and in that case I did purchase the Blue Underground disc.
But as someone who has been watching these films since the 1970's at the cinema and then on ropey VHS copies and then DVD I find the level of vitriol quite amusing. It really is making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Arrow have, of course, provided the buyer with a wealth of extras, as listed on previous reviews, as well as the usual 4 covers and poster, which I greatly appreciate.
It's true that Arrow do not always get it right but I do think they should be supported (along with the Shameless label) in making these films available in this country in affordable and collectable editions.
on 23 September 2008
I own these two films on individual DVDs rather than the package shown here.
Inferno is the second part of the "Trilogy" that started with Suspiria. The third part is the disappointing "Mother Of Tears". Inferno is one of the better Argento films but people seem to love it or hate it. It doesn't have much in common with Suspiria so don't expect Suspiria part 2. Again, it is a visually interesting film with some great sequences but is not the strongest on script or plot. A kind of horror/fantasy film that does feel quite eighties but is well worth watching.
Phenomena or "Creepers" to some, is very eighties and not particularly good. I'm glad I own it but I like Dario Argento - if you don't then don't bother with this film - it's OK at best.
on 17 October 2011
Sure, it doesn't have the nice fancy packaging, the postcards, poster, loads of special features etc (there still are good features, 3 interviews, one with Argento, 2 of which in HD, an intro by Argento, and the trailer) but why exactly do we buy a blu ray version of a film we really like?
That's right, the TRANSFER.
I must admit, I was surprised at how naturalistic the transfer was on this release, no DNR, or fake grain, it feels like Blue Underground (who I now prefer to stick to over Arrow, who seem to be concerned with practically everything but the transfer itself these days) have done a great job, they don't tamper with the transfers like Arrow do (The Beyond, anyone?), and the grain that is present, is natural, the colours are vibrant, it's nice and sharp, so if your a fan of Argento and this film in particular and want to see a PROPER 1080p upscale taken from the ORIGINAL print, then you need to buy this region free one.
I'm not hating on Arrow, they've done some fine releases, such as the Battle Royale boxset (perhaps the best blu ray I own own), and the transfer on Phenomena was excellent, Deep Red was 'ok', (but the blue underground transfer is leaps ahead), Dawn of the Dead was a terrific release (with a top notch transfer, 2 other discs of different cuts, including an Argento cut) and a heap load of features, but they seem to be getting somewhat 'inconsistent.'
It's also great that Amazon, at the time of purchase, were selling this product themselves rather than a second or third party importing it overseas that takes years to arrive (it arrived within a couple of days). Grab it when you can. I already own the Arrow version (which I'll just keep as a collectors novelty) but whenever I want to see this Argento classic, I'll always stick this one on instead.
on 14 November 2010
This film, Dario Argento's follow-up to Suspiria, forms the middle part of the so-called "Three Mothers" trilogy. Afficianadoes of Italian horror have long relished the claustraphobic and ultra-creepy underwater scenes at the start where the heroine dives into a flooded basement and disturbs a long entombed corpse. For once, Argento successfully creates and sustains an atmosphere of dread and mystery, this time centred on a strange old sparsely-populated appartment block in New York City. This building is one of three, built for the Mother of Darkness or Mater Tenebrarum, one of the Three Mothers who were powerful witches who ruled the world from Freiberg (setting of Suspiria), New York and Rome. A young poet who lives in the block discovers a book on the Three Mothers in an antique shop next door and sets about investigating the secret of the appartment block, beginning with it's basement. A very bad move. Soon she is writing to her musicologist brother in Rome in dread, begging him to return and help her. The evil spreads as soon as the letter is read, first engulfing a fellow student, then following the brother back to New York.
The DVD (region 1) copy that I have is ravishingly beautiful, bringing the most out of Argento's incredibly detailed and controlled scene settings and lighting arrangements: a real feast for the eyes. A dirty old cellar can look incredibly lush, bathed in red and blue light, in Argento's world, and even the darkest scenes are filled with a lush chiarascuro. And there's some good and unsettling use of seemingly random images (the chopping up of blood-red meat, a lizard chewing on a butterfly or a cat mangling a mouse). As ever, the plotline plays out better in Dario's head and never translates fully to the audience, so we are frequently baffled by what is going on (what exactly is the role of the mysterious concierge or the rich woman's manservant within the witch-world, for example? Followers, protectors? Witches are supposed to relish accumulating riches, so these two soon commit a significant sin). Still, this is a slasher movie after all, so the killings are liberally scattered throughout the film and particularly well-staged this time around, in my opinion, even by Suspiria's standard. And the acting from the younger leads is not as hopeless as in that film! Finally, prog rock veteran Keith Emerson (of ELP fame) contributes a superior piano and orchestral score that fits the film well (you can find a relatively inexpensive mp3 download of the entire score elsewhere on Amazon). Although it may lack the uniqueness of a Bernard Hermann, this is a cut above the orchestral fluff that horror films usually end up with. The only cuckoo in the nest here though is a single contribution by Godfrey Salmon to the music score entitled "Mater Tenebrarum". This bonkers bit of mad latin singing over a punishing ELP-like sonic delivery rather overwhelms the visual drama when it is used toward the end of the film, and sounds as if he is blatantly ripping off bits of ELPs "Pictures at an Exhibition" LP to boot. Well, imitation is supposed to be the sincerest expression of flattery.
On to the DVD extras: mostly the usual Italian horror fare (a few biogs and some stills) on this single disc edition, but there's a decent 8 min sub-titled interview with Argento and others about the making of the film, with a good bit on how Italian horror maestro Mario Bava (of "Black Sunday" fame) came on board to create key special effects.