US movie (1935). Fox. Pr Sol M Wurtzel. Dir Harry Lachman. Spfx Ralph Hammeras, Fred F Sersen, Louis J Witte. Screenplay Philip Klein, Robert M Yost. Sets Willy Pogány, inspired by Gustave Doré. Starring Spencer Tracy (Jim Carter), Claire Trevor (Betty), Henry B Walthall (Pop McWade). 89 mins. B/w.
A Carnival entrepreneur, Carter, makes his millions through shady dealings and on the strength of his extravagant sideshow "Dante's Inferno"; at last, through heroism, he loses his fortune but regains those he loves. This B-movie would be forgotten were it not for an extraordinary 10min sequence in which lovable Pop shows Carter an edition of Inferno illustrated by Gustav Doré, and we are suddenly plunged into it. Totally out of place, plopped like a solitary large plum into a stodgy pudding, this astonishing piece of work shows the grim, overpowering landscape of Hell, where tormented Souls (naked, in defiance of all Hollywood conventions of the day) meet their fiery, inevitable dooms. Why this sequence – which must have been hugely expensive in time, money and ingenuity – was wasted on this movie is a matter for conjecture. [JG]