Tonight was a terrific night of 3-D film noir at the World 3-D Film Expo at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre. Two movies from 1953, INFERNO and I, THE JURY, were shown in "dual 35mm" prints with old-fashioned cardboard 3-D glasses.
I was happy to be able to enjoy the first movie on tonight's schedule, INFERNO, with Lindsay of Lindsay's Movie Musings. Lindsay also wrote a great report on the screening at her blog so be sure to pop over for a visit!
Our host for the evening was Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation. Alan's enthusiastic and informative introductions are always a treat and add a lot of fun to the viewing experience.
Leonard Maltin recently wrote that it may be very difficult to see these films in their original 35mm 3-D in the future, as the digital revolution marches on. I'm not a huge fan of 3-D but I do enjoy the opportunity to see these historic films of the '50s in their original format from time to time, and the prints shown tonight provided an outstanding viewing experience.
The enthusiastic audience included actor Clu Gulagher sitting in the very front row; as a longtime fan of THE VIRGINIAN, I got a kick out of seeing him in person.
INFERNO immediately drops the audience into the action, as we watch Geraldine Carson (Rhonda Fleming) and Joseph Duncan (William Lundigan) mysteriously covering up tracks in the desert during the opening credits sequence.
CAUGHT (1949) -- does indeed seem to be a rather unpleasant fellow, but when he realizes no help is coming, he's not about to up and die.
This was a gripping, absorbing movie which packs a lot of story into its 83 minutes. I enjoyed it quite a bit -- though I have to say it's probably not a movie I would be anxious to rewatch often, as Donald's gritty battle for desert survival is rather exhausting even from the comfort of an air-conditioned theater seat!
Ryan manages to convey a great deal about Donald and his character's evolution despite not having a single other character to interact with for most of the movie. It's all done with visuals and voiceovers conveying what Donald is thinking. Since Ryan can do more with his eyes than most actors can with pages of dialogue, it's the perfect match of actor and role. Donald starts out as a jerk but wins audience sympathy over the course of the film, as the audience comes to admire his determination and quick thinking.
THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1949) and FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (1949), cast against type as the amoral murderer lusting after lovely Rhonda Fleming, not to mention her husband's money. Lundigan and Fleming's parts were perhaps a little underwritten, but I thought Lundigan did quite well gradually revealing his character's creepiness; I almost gasped as he walked away from Fleming in a scene late in the movie. Deep down, Joe had no gallantry whatsoever, he was all about his own self-preservation.
I also really enjoyed watching Fleming's Gerry "acting" the role of the innocent, concerned wife, then watching her cool, elegant femme fatale unravel and become a whiny mess. One of the marks of a good movie is wondering "what happened next," and I wondered that about Gerry, in particular.
INFERNO made very good use of 3-D, such as a scene where Donald is attempting to lower himself down a cliff wall and rocks start raining down on him from overhead. Moments such as that fit believably in the context of the story -- though the film does also have a couple moments where something is thrown suddenly to startle the audience, just because it's 3-D!
The supporting cast includes Larry Keating, Henry Hull, Carl Betz, and Robert Burton.
INFERNO was directed by Roy Ward Baker (I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU), from a script by Francis Cockrell. The cinematographer was Lucien Ballard. Alan Rode provided the information that some of the shooting was done in Apple Valley.
Viewmaster reel for this movie! A picture from it is seen here, featuring Fleming and Lundigan.
INFERNO is available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.
For additional takes on INFERNO, Colin has written about it at Riding the High Country, and there's a brand-new post up from Ivan on the film at ClassicFlix.