Directed by Guido Brignone [Other horror films: N/A]
Provided you’re in the right mood, this early Italian flick may be a hell of a lot of fun.
A small note, first: Maciste is one of the earliest reoccuring characters in the history of cinema, and is very well-known throughout Italy. A Hercules-type figure, Maciste is a man of much physical and moral strength. Played by actor Bartolomeo Pagano, Maciste appeared in over 25 silent films from 1914 to 1926 (Maciste all’inferno being one of the last ones).
The plot of this movie is about as simple as it sounds: being of strong moral fiber, King Pluto (or the Devil) takes it upon himself to tempt, and damn, Maciste, in order to destroy his morality. And once Maciste gets taken down to Hell, which happens about twenty minutes in, we’re in for a fun time.
It may sound a serious melodrama, of sorts, which certainly aren’t uncommon insofar as silent cinema is concerned, but Maciste all’inferno is a lot of fun. It’s an hour and five minutes of fantastic special effects (that hold up to this day), fist-fighting brawling action (seeing Maciste brawl with the legions of Hell is damn fun), and amazing fantasy, albeit certainly dated. It didn’t take itself seriously, and what we have is a light-hearted (though certainly, there’s still some real drama at points), often fun flick.
There were some really great scenes in this movie, from multiple decapitations (and after one of these, a demon re-attaches his head, which was creative), to all-out brawls between two factions of Hell, to a scene with Maciste flying on a dragon over the depths of Hell. Some things looked a little hooky, but was it fun? Hell yeah (pun certainly intended).
The main problem I had was a subplot that seemed to come out of nowhere. Wanting to usurp King Pluto’s place, another demon named Barbariccia led a revolt in order to satisfy his “revenge.” Perhaps it just flew by me, but I have no idea what exactly he wanted revenge for. It was a cool bunch of sequences, but still, I felt I was missing context, which may well have to do with the version I watched.
About the copy of the film I watched: there’s a 95-minute version of this movie out there, which can be found online, but I opted for the shorter 65-minute version, for two reasons. Most importantly, the alternative version was in it’s native Italian with French captions. I speak neither Italian nor French, and would look very idiotic trying to. Secondly, it uses the score of the French progressive/death metal band Gojira. While I have nothing against Gojira’s music, it’s not the type of stuff I want to listen to while watching a silent movie.
Still, even the shorter version of Maciste all’inferno was a lot of fun (and probably more digestible if you’re not into silent films), and everyone involved seemed to have a good time. One of Italy’s earliest-surviving horror films (though no doubt this could also simply be called either a fantasy or action flick), Maciste all’inferno was a deeply enjoyable watch the first time around, and it was no different this time.