Survivor!

I first saw Inferno (note: this is not the Dario Argento movie of the same name, but the Roy Ward Baker flick) during the summer of Iran-Contra. At the time I didn’t know Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, or Roy Ward Baker from a hole in the wall. It was summer, around lunchtime, and I came into the middle of the film not knowing the title either (the TV insert the paper put out had it listed helpfully as “movie”). I was chagrined when the trial coverage interrupted the film.

So this is the plot essentially: an unfaithful woman and her boyfriend leave her millionaire husband in the middle of the desert with a broken leg to die. Too bad he has no intentions of obliging them. The wife is played by Rhonda Fleming. William Lundigan is the boyfriend. And the unforgettable Robert Ryan is the guy crawling out of the desert.

It took me years actually to figure out what the title was. This was in the dark ages before the Internet. Some kind soul had taken pity on me in USENET and supplied the title, but it wasn’t out on video then. Actually, it still isn’t. I got what I thought was a legit copy from a rare film supplier, but it turned out to be a bootleg. The print on my tape is horrendous. So when I finally saw this film again on Fox Movie Channel this weekend, I was pleased that their print was of better quality. Interestingly, this film was originally done in 3-D, and many consider the film to be the best use of that technology.

Inferno is a solid little film. For a movie that mostly features Robert Ryan slowly hobbling around in the desert (with voiceover no less!), it’s surprisingly engrossing. What am I saying? I spent over a decade trying to see the rest of it so that should tell you something. The three leads are well cast. While I can’t say I’m the biggest Rhonda Fleming fan, she does a good job here. Robert Ryan has a difficult task. His character is established early on as an unpleasant sort. Most of his dialogue is in the form of a voiceover. Yet, by the middle of the film, he’s become very sympathetic and you’re rooting for him. His trek in the desert is not just about his survival, but also about his growth as a person. Good stuff.

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