Most people think that 3-D movies something fairly new, at least using a technology that relied upon the anaglyph system with those ridiculous cardboard glasses cellophane lenses of different colors. Even if a person is aware that there was a golden age 3-D in the 50s and attempted revival in the mid-60s, they typically might think that this methodology was primarily used in horror and action films. Thankfully this is not the case. In the last few months, I’ve received several 3-D movies for review from that Golden age. Utilizing a methodology somewhat similar to the ‘Real 3-D’, these films relied upon light polarization to achieve the illusion of depth. In the last few months, I have been fortunate enough to receive a number of discs to review featuring films from this period. Better yet, they have been restored for presentation using modern 3-D technology. This is where the similarities between the all school polarization systems in the current methods represent a real treat for cinephiles. Not only do we get to watch some of these classic movies, but we are able to enjoy them in the format the director intended. Actually, considering the video resolution and discrete multichannel audio, we are able to appreciate the finer nuances to these films was possible during the original theatrical releases. Among this batch of films one in particular stood out catching my attention, ‘Inferno’. Despite what the title might bring to mind this is not a disaster movie depicting some conflagration, but rather an expertly crafted and intensely intriguing film noir. I’ve always enjoyed that genre is one of the most psychologically intense types of movie possible. Not only do we get a solid story artfully told her you have the addition of 3-D. The filmmaker here, Roy Ward Baker, was formerly known for a number of television series mostly in England. One project that is exceptionally notable is his work for the camp spy series ‘The Avengers’. This director had a better sense of the proper utilization of 3-D the many modern auteurs haven’t begun to master.
Not only does this film challenge many of your preconceptions about 3-D films in the 50s but it forces many film buffs to rethink what you might consider the necessary elements for a crime thriller. It replaces the dark, see the atmosphere of the city with the Mohave Desert. As may be evident by the name, Donald Whitley Carson III (Robert Ryan) is a spoiled millionaire. Let’s face it, a moniker like that is never found in the local gin mill pool hall. People of great wealth from time were frequently included the crime throws this era. This was a period that saw the emergence of a strong middle-class who enjoyed watching the rich subject to the same crimes of misfortune as regular people. Carson and his wife, Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming), were in the desert on holiday. It was often felt that the dry heat and fresh air of such places was conducive as a healing environment, on this case remote location to dry out from his severe alcoholism. One of the most important aspects a film noir was a seductively sinister femme fatale. Geraldine was in the habit of adultery was currently actively cheating on her husband. A latest para amour was Carson’s business partner, Joseph Duncan (William Lundigan). There are other ancillary parts in this story but at its core everything reduces their through a deadly romantic triangle. Typical of film noir, the term romance is rather misplaced within this context. Geraldine loves only one person, herself. She uses Carson for his money and Duncan to satiate her lust.
Portion of the enjoyment that you can derive from this movie is precisely and embodies the epitome of the genre. This rested on the shoulders of the very talented director and screenwriter. Responsible for the script was Francis M. Cockrell. Many in his field he would eventually wind up providing teleplays for the explosively growing market TV. To his credit however, Mr. Cockrell was a frequent contributor to some of the best series of the time including; ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘Perry Mason’ and as a demonstration of his versatility he penned episodes of ‘Batman’ and a thought-provoking episode of the classic ‘The Outer Limits’. This man certainly knew how to craft a suspenseful story which is classically made difficult by the morally ambiguous nature of characters in film noir. While the three characters in the story are enjoying the morning ride on horseback the surface of the debilitating accident thrown from his horse. Geraldine and Duncan you this is a perfect opportunity, an ideal set of circumstances to not only to live openly but to enjoy Carson’s money in the process. They write off to leave him to die. Unfortunately for the success of their plan, they failed to consider one of the most powerful incentives to survive known to the human condition, to exact revenge on those who left her to a slow and painful death.
This movie aptly demonstrates the necessity for the screenwriter and director to force the synergy emulating the story to the audience. Mr. Cockrell’s talent for crafting a tale of heinous behavior allowing the audience to vicariously experience the life of the criminal and Mr. Baker’s stylistic flair for entwining the audience in the numerous twists and turns, betrayals and vendettas, and placed in the spy movie imperfectly combining them with the story at hand. When faced with death by exposure in the Mojave Desert, Carson’s entire purpose for living collapses to one focal point; live, so that those who betrayed him and dieted his hand. This allows a considerable portion of the film to focus on the arduous trek of an injured man back to civilization. Between the heat, lips cracked with first in injuries sustained from his fall, Carson is determined to survive. In many cases such as distant movies several plot contrivances unnecessary in order to allow the antagonist to suck a string of misfortunes and setbacks. By setting this story in the middle of the desert nothing has to be forced from the improbable. Rockslides, rattlesnakes, the unrelenting heat combined with a horizon set beyond the vast emptiness.
3-D movies prevalent today what really separates a director who can think in three dimensions and one who was trying to show off his mastery of the technology is contained not so much in the big events, the major moments of the film, but in the treatment of the more mundane features that make up the stories environment. This is where Mr. Baker excelled. While a striking rattlesnake does count as the familiar cylindrical object being trust out of the plane of the screen towards the audience, the rate he handles it with such style and care realism conferred by the 3-D effects completely overwhelmed and he thought that it might be a good. This illusion of depth is incredibly well achieved here and fits into the telling of the story. You can appreciate how far off the horizon seems, the rough texture of the sand and rocks, all while watching Carson pulled himself through one agonizing step at a time. In this instance 3-D is used to envelop the audience in this terrifying experience. The movie was also given a complete stereophonic soundtrack which when combined with the 3-D effects make this movie quite a special experience. Despite the fact that a Martin 5.1 soundtrack is included in the best way to fully appreciate this film is to set the speakers were stereophonic output. If your receiver has pre-encoded environments try choosing a moderately sized auditorium. This preserves the stereo aspect while achieving the ambience of a 1953 movie theater. While there are many film noir movies that are better, not many achieve the uniqueness found here.