Inferno (1953)

Film Review


Release Date: 12 August, 1953

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan

Related Discussion Topic: 3D

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Donald Whitley Carson III, rich, hard drinking, spoiled, and unpleasant, has fallen from his horse and broken his leg. This accident has occurred in a remote canyon in the Mojave Desert. His wife, Gerry, and a mining geologist, Joseph Duncan, leave him with a canteen of water, a pistol, and a small amount of food. They tell him that they are going for help. However, Duncan is Gerry's lover, and their report at the office of the trail outfitters does not include the accident or his correct location. He is not found during searches, and his business ,associates and the local sheriff believe that he left the desert before his disappearance. Meantime, Carson realizes that his wife and Duncan have abandoned him. He splints his leg and sets out to reach the desert floor where he can signal for help. Attempting to work his slow and painful way down the steep hillside, he runs out of water and food.

His plight seems hopeless until he digs is able to dig a waterhole. The water attracts a deer that he manages to shoot. Fortified, he proceeds to the desert floor where he lights signal fires. Seeing a small plane approaching, he lights a fire and then realizes that the plane is flown by Duncan. Duncan is looking for Carson's body and the remains of his camp that he intends to bury. Duncan spots Carson on the desert floor and realizes that he must return to kill him. Gerry and Duncan return to kill him, but as Duncan stalks him, Carson is picked up by Sam Elby, a desert hermit. Gerry attempts to drive away and leave Duncan stranded, but she wrecks the car on a large rock. They quarrel, and Duncan starts walking toward the Mexican border. He leaves Gerry to fend for herself. Crossing the desert, Duncan comes upon Carson in Elby's shack and attacks them. Duncan knocks out Elby, and he and Carson fight furiously. During the fight, they upset the stove and set the shack on fire. Both men loose consciousness in the smoke, but Elby recovers in time to pull Carson out of the fire. Duncan is killed when the burning walls collapse on him. Driving to the nearest town, the two men come upon Gerry plodding slowly along the road. Carson asks if she wishes to go with them or wait for the sheriff. She wearily climbs on the back of the truck, and they proceed.


This tense and exciting film showcases the talents of Robert Ryan. His actions and his narration hold the interest of the viewer. Alone in the desert, he narrates his thoughts as he struggles to move from hillside to valley floor, to obtain food and water, and to signal for help. Carson's character changes as days pass during which he endeavors to survive. The self-centered, angry, slightly drunken man, whose wife deserted him, gains personal insight, laughs at himself, and works hard without complaining. He is friendly and companionable with Elby rather than demanding and condescending as he would have been previously. The depth perception provided by 3D enhances the sense of distance in the desert. The viewer sees that Carson is surrounded by an expansive, dry, and perilous environment.