Inferno (1980)

It just struck me tonight that Suspiria is kind of like Star Wars; both came out in 1977, both were released by 20th Century Fox, both were unexpected hits, and once they were both their creators decided “hmm, let’s see if we can do that again” and announced trilogies. Unfortunately for Argento, the comparison doesn’t end well for him, with Inferno having been a markedly lesser success than either Suspiria or George Lucas’ little film… Notable as Argento’s first film not in ‘Scope (flat 1.85 instead), and for using Keith Emerson to score it rather than Goblin. Apparently Argento hired him cos he wanted something more delicate than Goblin’s usual stuff, which makes me wonder how well he knew Emerson’s work. Which was actually better than I remembered (though the sung bit is still misguided), but it’s not the same… Inferno occupies a difficult position, being not only the middle film in a trilogy (which wouldn’t be completed for 27 years) but also the one that sets the trilogy up, since the trilogy concept didn’t really exist when the first film was made. And it suffers some from having to try and tell more of a story than Suspiria, and doing so with some difficulty, while trying to recapture that film’s peculiar magic (particularly the use of setting and colour), and, well, coming off second best in the contest (though it may have a slight edge in the nastiness stakes, particularly that business with the rats). Not to mention the somewhat mixed effects (Mario Bava contributed some nice stuff, but good Christ the skeletal manifestation of Mater Tenebrarum at the end is risible). Still, though in many ways it really is just an attempt to redo Suspiria to lesser effect, I retain a certain odd fondness for it for some reason even I don’t quite understand; I’d rather rewatch this than those later Argento films I’ve reviewed…

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