Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dante's Inferno (1911)

My attempts to teach youngsters about the silent days of horror will continue.  Dante's Inferno is #dank af.

By lots of accounts, this is the first feature-length film that could liberally be labelled "horror".  So it's kind of hilarious that it's mostly a vehicle for makeup and effects!  This is definitely an abridged version of the book, shorn of any sleepy scenes and with 110% more hell content.  For God's sake, please tell me you know the plot of Dante's Inferno, I am begging you.

Fine.  Dante, who had previously fallen in love with a young girl (as in young), wrote this book about his travels to the underworld, accompanied by the famed Roman poet Virgil.  They see all sorts of things, since Dante's version of hell is zoned into different areas of punishment.  Suicides get turned into trees, spendthrifts get to push big sacks of gold around, etc.  God has clearly put a lot of thought into all this.

These hell scenes comprise the entirety of this film.  And, given its age, some of the scenes are staggering, both in terms of technical achievement and audacity.  In the screenshot above, the film utilizes real amputees to feed its infernal frames.  But, hold on, because next we see MUHAMMED with his chest ripped open, enduring the punishment of heretics.  Like Gun Crazy, this is an old film that now seems even more transgressive.

Some of the effects are, as one would expect from this early date, rather rough.  But much of the imagery shows great imagination and a commendable sense of perversity.  

This probably isn't something you'll select for movie night instead of Bridesmaids, but it's only an hour and worth watching to get a sense of where this thing on which we've wasted our lives literally began.


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