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Inferno (1953 film)

Inferno is a 1953 American film noir drama/thriller starring Robert Ryan, William Lundigan and Rhonda Fleming, directed by Roy Ward Baker. It was shot in Technicolor and shown in 3-D Dimension and stereophonic sound.

Inferno (1953 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoy Ward Baker
Produced byWilliam Bloom
Screenplay byFrancis Cockrell
StarringRobert Ryan
Rhonda Fleming
William Lundigan
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 12, 1953 (1953-08-12) (United States)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States


When millionaire industrialist Donald Carson III breaks his leg during a trip through the Mojave Desert, his wife Gerry and mining engineer Joe Duncan tell him they will seek medical aid. Yet they never return, and it isn't long before Carson realizes his predicament -- he is stranded alone in the desert. Carson vows to survive in order to exact revenge on his adulterous wife and her accomplice, who have flown to Carson's mansion in Los Angeles, while waiting for him to succumb to either desert heat or suicide. Carson, however, does neither. Instead, he fashions a splint for his leg, enabling him to limp through the desert. At one point, he successfully digs a well; he also slays a deer and transforms it into strips of dried meat that will last for days.

Law enforcement officers had hoped to find the missing Carson; but after several unsuccessful attempts, it is decided to call off further search efforts. Just to be certain Carson is dead, though, Joe flies a small plane over the region and spots the remnants of a fire Carson had apparently started to keep warm the previous evening. Suspecting now that he is still alive, Joe and Gerry drive back into the desert to look for and/or finish off Carson once and for all. But just as Joe discovers his prey and is about to shoot him, an old prospector, Elby, driving a jalopy, encounters Carson and gives him a ride back to his desert shack. Returning to his own car, Joe discovers that Gerry has driven it over a large rock by accident, which has ruptured the vehicle's oil pan. The damage now makes it impossible for them to drive out of the desert. Joe suddenly realizes her real intention, when she moved the car, was to abandon him as they both did Carson. Joe angrily walks away, leaving Gerry to fend for herself alone in the Mojave.

That evening at Elby's shack, the prospector prepares supper for Carson, who confesses to his rescuer that although revenge is what sustained him while lost in the desert, the treachery of his wife and lover no longer seem important. As Elby goes outside to his well for water, he is knocked cold by Joe, who spotted the light coming from his shack. Joe then shoots at Carson but misses. The two men engage in a desperate, brutal fistfight. A toppled stove causes the shack to catch fire. With both men inside barely conscious, a recovered Elby drags Carson to safety while Joe perishes in the blaze. The next day, as Elby drives Carson to the nearest town, they spy Gerry walking alone on a long, remote stretch of desert road. Elby stops his dilapidated car beside her, and Carson calmly tells Gerry that she can either wait for the authorities to find her or ride into town with them. She gets into the car.


  • Robert Ryan as Donald Whitley Carson III
  • Rhonda Fleming as Geraldine Carson
  • William Lundigan as Joseph Duncan
  • Larry Keating as Dave Emory
  • Henry Hull as Sam Elby
  • Carl Betz as Lt. Mike Platt
  • Robert Burton as Sheriff
  • Robert Adler as Ken, Ranch Hand
  • Harry Carter as Deputy Fred Parks
  • Everett Glass as Mason, Carson's Butler
  • Adrienne Marden as Emory's Secretary
  • Barbara Pepper as Waitress
  • Charles Tannen as voice of police radio broadcaster
  • Dan White as Lee, Ranch Hand


Inferno is 20th Century Fox's first 3-D film.[2]


The 2-D version of the film was released on October 8, 1953.[3]

Critical responseEdit

When the film was released, The New York Times gave the film a positive review and lauded the direction of the picture and the acting, writing,

[A]s fragmentary realism the picture rings true and persuasive. Mr. Ryan's portrayal of the gritty, determined protagonist is, of course, a natural. Miss Fleming, one of Hollywood's coolest, prettiest villainesses, knows how to handle literate dialogue, which, in this case, she shares.[4]

In a positive review, Time Out Film Guide called the film, "A tight and involving essay in suspense which works on the ingenious idea of leaving the audience alone in the desert with an unsympathetic and selfish character," and noted the finer aspects of the 3-D film, writing,

Inferno was one of the best and last movies to be made in 3-D during the boom in the early '50s. Certainly its use of space emphasized the dramatic possibilities of 3-D and reveals, as more than one person has observed, that the device had largely been squandered in other films made at the time.[5]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote,

Inferno loses something when not seen in 3-D as intended when released, nevertheless it remains as a taut survival thriller. It makes good use of 3-D, in fact it does it better than most other such gimmicky films ... The desert photography by Lucien Ballard is stunning.[6]

Revival screeningsEdit

On February 1, 2013, Inferno was shown in digital 3-D in a double feature with Man in the Dark (1953) in the Noir City Film Festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.[7]

Home mediaEdit

Inferno has been made available on Hulu in anaglyph 3D (not its native format).

Inferno was released as a 3D Blu-ray disc, from an excellent print, first from Panamint in Scotland and later by Twilight Time in the United States.


Inferno was remade for television in 1973 as Ordeal, with Arthur Hill in the Robert Ryan part and Diana Muldaur and James Stacy as his would-be murderers.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p248
  2. ^ World 3-D Film Expo II web site, September 13, 2006. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
  3. ^ "Universal Puts 'Wings' Into 2-D, Too". Variety. September 23, 1953. p. 10. Retrieved October 10, 2019 – via
  4. ^ The New York Times. Film review, August 12, 1953. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
  5. ^ Time Out Film Guide. Time Out-New York, film review, 2006. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 14, 2005. Last access: December 1, 2009.
  7. ^ Noir City film festival website
  8. ^ Ordeal (1973 television film) on IMDb.

External linksEdit