Dante's Inferno (L'Inferno)
Giuseppe De Liguoro
1909 Milano Studios
Italian 56 min.

Dante's Inferno was released in America in 1911 with great fanfare. It was originally presented with a lecturer/narrator, and a live musical score, (now lost), by one "Signor Carvaglios, composer of some note". Promoted by a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, it was one of the first feature-length films to be shown widely.

At the time cinema was itself a wild frontier; a technological wonder, full of potential. Dante's Inferno was lauded as a great step forward in the cinema's growth from a sideshow novelty (despite its American representative's lowbrow business credentials), into a bona fide art form. W. Stephen Bush wrote in a 1911 edition of Moving Picture World:

"Is it possible that presently the moving picture, the whilom despised handmaiden of the clown and the cowboy, will place within the reach of millions all the treasure , that now, but for a handful of scholars, lies untouched in the libraries of the world? Is it true , that this heaven-sent invention will reveal to the masses of the people all the beauty, all the grandeur, all the sublime pictures and the no less sublime gospel of Dante?"

In Italy, America and the U.K., the film was an extraordinary critical and financial success. (This may have been in some part due to its basis on Gustave Dore's popular book of etchings of The Inferno.) It was reported in Il Giorno that "the scenes showing the unhappy fate of Francesca da Rimini, the circles of the City of Dis, and the tragic sufferings of Ugolino and his sons were received with many exclamations, showing how profoundly the audience had been moved." Another Italian journal praised the film for having reproduced the episodes in the first canto "in the most minute detail with settings so gorgeous, that it surpasses all previous efforts."

Giuseppe De Liguoro, (1869-1944), began his career, as did many early film pioneers, as a stage actor. He appears in the film in several roles, including Count Ugolino. He directed at least a dozen historical films - an extremely popular genre at the time in Italy and elsewhere - before his retirement in 1924.