For, May 9, 2014

Spencer Tracy is excellent, as always, starring in "Dante's Inferno" (1935, b/w) as an unscrupulous con artist who takes on a carnival sideshow and creates a sensation. But because he shortchanges safety regulations, disaster strikes.

The film's highlight comes as he has a feverish dream about hell — and the depiction is quite startling, considering the period when this film was made, right after the Hays office began enforcing the censorship of the Production Code.


Tracy then takes on a floating casino and, wouldn't you know it, disaster strikes again. But this time with a very different outcome.

Spencer Tracy is often acknowledged as one of the screen's finest actors, very grounded and real, even during a time of more exaggerated performances by other movie stars. And in "Dante's Inferno" he plays someone who might be impossible to sympathize with, even when this borderline evil character changes for the better, were it not for the natural charisma Tracy brings to the proceedings.

The set design, costumes and special effects are marvelous for the period, and that centerpiece depiction of hell still has resonance.


   Spencer Tracy, Claire Trevor in publicity shot for 'Dante's Inferno.'

Claire Trevor co-stars, and if you're a Rita Hayworth fan, look for her as a dancer in a brief sequence (she's billed by her real last name, Cansino).

It's on DVD for the first time thanks to the burn-on-demand Fox Cinema Archive label.