R: Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, Giuseppe de Liguoro. On the base of “La Divina Commedia” by Dante Alighieri. K: Emilio Roncarolo. D: Salvatore Papa, Arturo Pirovano, Giuseppe de Liguoro. P: Milano Film. It 1911
“The Italian epic came of age with Giuseppe de Liguoro’s imaginative silent version of the Inferno, loosely adapted from Dante and inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Doré. L’Inferno was first screened in Naples in the Teatro Mercadante 10 March 1911. The film took over three years to make involving more than 150 people and was the first full length Italian feature film ever made. It’s success was not confined to Italy it was an international hit taking more than $2 million in the United States alone.”
“Utilizing 35mm materials from the Library of Congress and from the British Film Institute, edition producer Tim Pearce has compiled the most-complete surviving version of this early Italian epic film, taken largely from an American release print and presented in a windowboxed format to allow the maximum amount of the original print image to be seen on all televisions.
After a 3.5 minute introductory credits section, we view the main source print for this edition, which is of very-good quality but is compromised by some print damage common to circulated materials of this age occasional sections of long vertical print-wear marks in the film stock, some print shrinkage which manifests in some image movement within the frame, and some picture jitters which indicates some sprocket wear and is most visible as some downward blurring in the intertitles. But the print is light on actual emulsion damage in the form of long white vertical scratches, blotches, emulsion chipping, speckling and dust, and the grayscale range is relatively broad with very-good highlight and shadow image detail. The secondary print is in better condition than the main print, but it is also notibly contrastier, with plugged-up shadows and bright highlights that lose image detail. The midshot frame geometry matching of edit points between the two source prints is very well done.
Missing from this edition is an intertitle that explains the significance of the circle of backward-walking sinners with their heads completely turned 180 degrees around and the complete shot of the scene itself (which here lasts for only three seconds).
Pearce scores a major artistic coup in the presentation of an original music score composed by Edgar Froese and son Jerome Froese of the famous German electronic music group Tangerine Dream. Although we respect and enjoy Tangerine Dreams music, we felt that the English-language vocals narrating the films action are an unnecessary distraction and add little to the viewing experience. The vocals are somehow less disruptive when they are performed in Italian. Thankfully, such vocal intrusions are few and Tangerine Dreams atmospheric and well-textured synthesizer instrumentals may be enjoyed for the majority of the picture.”