Inferno is a 1980 Italian supernatural horror film written and directed by Dario Argento. The film stars Irene Miracle, Leigh McCloskey, Eleonora Giorgi, Daria Nicolodi, and Alida Valli. The cinematography was by Romano Albani, and Keith Emerson composed the film’s thunderous musical score. The story concerns a young man’s investigation into the disappearance of his sister, who had been living in a New York City apartment building that also served as a home for a powerful, centuries-old witch.
A thematic sequel to Suspiria (1977), the film is the second part of Argento’s “The Three Mothers Trilogy”. The long-delayed concluding entry, The Mother of Tears, was released in 2007. All three films are partially derived from the concept of “Our Ladies of Sorrow” (Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum, and Mater Tenebrarum) originally devised by Thomas de Quincey in his book Suspiria de Profundis (1845).
Unlike Suspiria, Inferno received a very limited theatrical release and the film was unable to match the box-office success of its predecessor. While the initial critical response to the film was mostly negative, its reputation has improved considerably over the years. Kim Newman has called it “…perhaps the most underrated horror movie of the 1980’s.” In 2005, the magazine Total Film named Inferno one of the 50 greatest horror films of all time.
- The second part (with Suspiria (1977) and La terza madre (2007)) of the “Three Mothers” trilogy.
- James Woods was the original choice for the lead role but he was already committed to Videodrome (1983).
- All of the murderer’s hands in the movie were Dario Argento’s.
- Legendary Italian horror director Mario Bava assisted with the making of the special effects on this film. Bava passed away shortly before its release.
- For some of the exterior location shoots in Italy footage of New York City skyscrapers were superimposed in the background to make it appear like the films NYC setting.
- In an interview with assistant director Lamberto Bava, he said that he handled and wrangled so many cats during the shooting of this film that afterward he could no longer stand to be in the same room as a cat. He’s avoided them since then.
- Argento said that the gentleman who provided the live ants used in the film collected them by walking around in the park with a vacuum and literally sucking them up from the ground. He would later retrieve them from the vacuum bag once on set.
- Part of the reason Argento cast Irene Miracle as Rose Elliot was she had synchronize swimming skills, which came in quite handy for the shooting of the underwater ballroom scene.
- The film was shot in three months.
- According to co-writer and star Daria Nicolodi she didn’t fight for writing credits on this film as she had an ordeal just getting writing credit on Argento’s previous film Suspiria (1977). According to Nicolodi the basic plot of ‘Inferno’ was her creation.
- When star ‘Leigh McCloskey”s stunt double broke his leg, McCloskey himself had to perform the stunt work for the films explosive finale. In interviews McCloskey said it was an intense experience as the rest of the crew and equipment were protected by multiple layers of Plexiglas while he had to run without protection through sets rigged to explode and burn. McCloskey said ‘when you feel glass flying by you like a Harrier jet, you never forget it!’
- According to ‘Leigh McCloskey’, Dario Argento’s brother Claudio Argento spoke better English than Dario so often he would have to translate Dario’s direction to the cast.
- Reportedly Dario Argento was ill with a serve case of hepatitis through out the production. At one point he had to be bed-ridden for a few days leaving the production to work on only second unit. Argento has since called ‘Inferno’ perhaps his most challenging film for this reason alone.
- In 2005 Total Film magazine named ‘Inferno’ one of the 50 greatest horror films ever made.
- English film critic Kim Newman once called ‘Inferno’ the most underrated horror film of the 1980’s.
- Twentieth Century Fox co-financed the film because it’s predecessor Suspiria (1977) had been quite a successful film for their company.
- For the scene where Kazanian carries the bag of ‘cats’ into Central Park a mechanical device was placed inside the bag to make it move, giving the impression that there were actually live animals inside.
- Mario Bava is credited with creating the design of Rose Elliot’s unique apartment building. Bava also built the small-scale model that was burned in the films fiery climax.