Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Inferno [1980]

Italian movie (1980). Produzioni Intersound/ 20th Century-Fox. Pr Claudio Argento. Exec pr Salvatore Argento. Dir Dario Argento. Spfx Germano Natali. Screenplay Dario Argento. Starring Feodor Chaliapin (Varelli), Eleonora Giorgi (Sara), Gabriele Lavia (Carlo), Veronica Lazar (Nurse), Leigh McGloskey (Mark), Irene Miracle (Rose), Daria Nicolodi (Elise), Sacha Pitoeff (Kazanian), Alida Valli (Carol). 107 mins. Colour.

As the alchemist (> Alchemy) Varelli recorded in his fictional Book The Three Mothers, he built three special Edifices to house a trinity of supernatural females (who may be the Goddess or the Morrígan [> Morgan Le Fay]): Mater Susperiorum (Mother of Sighs) is housed in Freiburg, Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears) in Rome and Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness) in New York. Rose reads the book and realizes her New York apartment block is the edifice in question; she writes to her brother, Mark, studying music in Rome. After much bloodshed, Mark discovers that Varelli is still alive – as an ancient scholar – in the New York building.

The plot of I fails to hang together, and the movie's morality is dubious: it can be read as merely an excuse to depict three beautiful young women being gorily slaughtered. Yet the script is far from empty-headed, and is of frequent fantasy interest. Argento's colour values are curious (they have been compared with Comics work) – perhaps deliberately, perhaps for economy; either way, the effect is to create a sort of urban Magic Realism. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.