My thanks to comic artist Gary Erskine for highlighting the incredible L’Inferno, the first full-length Italian feature film. Some would say it’s the first horror film, although I doubt its makers saw it as that.
Released in 1911, it’s loosely adapted from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Directed by Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan and Giuseppe De Liguoro, its imagery based on the work of Gustave Dore, it took over three years to make and sensitive viewers should be warned it includes mutilations, demons and punishments of all kinds (including Lucifer chewing the damned alive).
Starring Salvatore Papa as Dante Alighieri and Arturo Pirovano as Virgilio, the first music score for the film was written by Raffaele Caravaglios.
The film, which is in the public domain, was released on DVD in 2004, with a score by Tangerine Dream, and again in 2011 by Cineteca di Bologna in the Il Cinema Ritrovato series, based on a version restored in 2006 (There’s a good overview of that release here by Paul Joyce).
This is the version of the film used on the YouTube version released by Mike Kiker, his score performed live with the film on 19th October 2016 at RUBA Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The edit of L’Inferno is by Richard Campbell of Cinema Ray.
“I was asked by the organization Cinema Ray in early September 2016 to perform a live score with a silent horror film, as a part of their month-long ‘Silent Screams with Live Music’ series,” says Mike. “Of the choices I was given, L’Inferno was the first film that I watched and even before finishing it or watching any of the other films, I knew that this was the film meant for me. I was disturbed on a psychic level, yet intrigued by what amazing feats the filmmakers had accomplished in their day.
“With the exception of the Overture (recorded in September 2016) and a few recurring themes, this score was about 95 per cent improvised,” he continues. “I worked up various sounds and progressions, but didn’t decide on a set structure until within the performance itself. I just reacted naturally to the feel of the film as it progressed.
“This was an absolute labour of love to put together with Rich and Allison from Cinema Ray and to release. Enjoy with an open mind.”
With thanks to Gary Erskine