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Saturday, November 08, 2014

3-D Weekend at Greenbriar


Inferno (1953) Does Depth Proud

My nominee for ideal 3-D experience, Inferno among handful of depth shows you can as easily enjoy flat. That's how I saw it over years, a blue ribbon desert noir where scheming wife Rhonda Fleming and lover Bill Lundigan leave her disabled millionaire husband Robert Ryan to die in merciless Mojave heat. The yarn's a natural for telling in simplest melodrama terms, fun always in seeing a man rise above what seems certain death. 3-D is exploited, but not farcically so. Good actors can sometimes be stymied by distraction of the process, though not here. Ryan, Fleming, Lundigan are all fine. I liked how Inferno had Bob in voiceover during struggle with elements, dragging his broke leg down jagged cliffs toward hopeful rescue. Director Roy Baker contrasts his privation with comforts enjoyed by faithless Rhonda, cuts from Ryan broiling under pitiless sun to her at poolside with tall libation. Inferno is just out on Region Two from England. It was rescued from left/right 35mm Technicolor prints by tandem effort of 3-D expert Bob Furmanek and restorer Dan Symmes, splendid work by both.


Helmsman Baker said when interviewed that Darryl Zanuck imposed "clichés" for a sock finish, reminder again that DFZ rode close herd on even smallish projects like Inferno, a virtual "B" under any circumstance other than push on fresh fad that was 3-D. Well, clichés are clichés because people like seeing them applied. You can frustrate but so much expectation on viewer part. In the case of Inferno and its kind, we want certain bumps at understood intervals --- mustn't monkey with a formula that works. Baker had a solid story, which he apparently found and pushed, Zanuck, Skouras, and 20th undergrowth all immersed in coming Cinemascope. Latter took bloom off rose that was 3-D, it wilting by well-into-1953 launch of Inferno. Depth pics needed to be quick out of the gate to thrive. Many exhibs took Inferno flat, trade reviews calling it fair enough entertainment on any terms. Inferno cost a million, returned not-enough $1.4 in worldwide rentals, so loss was taken of $361K. Patronage may have figured this one for stale bread what with Fox prepping truer novelty of widest screens for fall '53 rollout.

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