December 28, 2010

Another year over and what have you done?


After posting twice-weekly throughout 2009, this year was total upheaval as we moved out of the house for six months of building work. I kept up with weekly posts but am still struggling to improve on that frequency while my reference collection is still in disarray. I used to cope with two movie reviews a week, but I've been getting (over)ambitious in the scope of each post.

It was fun to talk about my earliest
horror film books and magazines. I'm planning several more time capsules of 1970s' movie memorabilia and cinema-going...

I also wrote more cross-comparisons of films based on the same source material, like Dante's Inferno, and the Jonestown mass suicide. But those articles took weeks to prepare. Simple reviews turning into three-in-one epics. The idea is always to try and not repeat what's already out there. Why post reviews of Avatar or Inception and compete with a thousand other writers?

Perversely, I've enjoyed writing about movies that aren't currently available, to raise awareness (and demand) for older films that haven't made the 'leap' to DVD yet. It feels wrong to recommend films that you can't easily see, but at the same time it's about putting out information that's missing from the net, and showing love for the films being left behind. Thankfully this year there's been a fairly steady stream of DVD releases to tick off my 'most wanted' list, most notably The Green Slime!

Twittering has been fun, but I'm not sure that it has fed many readers back into this blog. I've also found it impossible to get reliable recommendations about films from the other Twitterers! There's a lot of excitement and promotion involved, and it's much harder to 'read' where people are coming from. I find it a useful way to get news out quickly, and for posting mini-reviews of stuff that I'm not going to blog about.

Stepping back to look at the site as a whole, I'm planning to restructure it (slightly) to make the archives more navigable. Instead of displaying a list of every film review in the sidebar, I want to turn each category into a more helpful page of recommendations. The idea being that the site is somewhere to come for ideas about what to watch in your favourite genre.

In any case, thank you for reading. I've still got a thousand things I want to write about.

Finally, a word from the cat sitting on the keyboard... xdddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

The cat sat in front of the Shat

December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas, Earthlets!

As you can see, the festivities will continue even in the far future, despite the efforts of Mega-City One's most hardworking lawman, Judge Dredd.

More future festive cover art can be viewed here on Pete Wells' site
2000AD Covers Uncovered.

December 21, 2010

AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970) ...they were lost in France

(1970, UK)
Tense thriller from the production crew of The Avengers

(This is an updated review, first posted in 2007.)

This is a good companion piece to Blind Terror (US title See No Evil) also written by Brian Clemens. There's a slow-burning set-up that carefully builds up atmosphere, and never telegraphs to the audience where the story will go next.

Again, I was first frightened by this film as a teenager. It's still intriguing and suspenseful, capturing the atmosphere of a hot continental summer. There's a hundred films where people are stranded in the unwelcoming wilderness of middle America, but how many are set in rural France?

Although this is one of my favourite psycho-thrillers, I still want to see the new remake that stars Karl Urban. It won't need much tweaking to work really well today.

Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice play two friends on a cycling holiday in the French countryside. The girls cross paths with a mysterious stranger, and soon afterwards get separated. Michele thinks she's being watched. But when Pamela tries to find her again, she can't... either they keep missing each other, or there is a mystery here, and the local people (those who talk English) talk about other local disappearances...

With Brian Clemens writing and producing, Robert Fuest directing, and Laurie Johnson composing, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was an episode of The Avengers (the series had just been cancelled). Together, they successfully make a Hitchockian thriller, inverting the setting of a psycho-thriller from a cliched storm-drenched, haunted house into sunlit open fields, a little like the famous cropduster scene in North by Northwest.

Talking on the US DVD commentary track, Clemens must have had a lousy holiday in France to inspire the menace of the deserted roads and the unfriendly locals. All the French spoken in the film remains untranslated (by subtitles), siding us with the confused English holidaymaker. We are as much in the dark as she is.

Perfectly cast, Michele Dotrice and Pamela Franklin both look great in hotpants (tight, short shorts). Franklin was already a horror veteran, as a child star in The Innocents (1960), The Third Secret (1964) and The Nanny (1965), and soon appeared in the The Legend of Hell House (1973) as a psychic. Oh and let's not forget she was then in the fairly awful The Food of the Gods (1976), a sign that her film career was slowing down - what a terrible waste. I'll watch her non-horror roles - she's such an interesting actress.

Michele Dotrice (daughter of actor Roy), is better known in the UK as a sitcom star, but had also done horror in Hammer's The Witches (1966) and soon appeared in Tigon's extraordinary
Blood on Satan's Claw (1971).

Sandor Eles' character roams the countryside, appearing here between his two famous Hammer horror roles, The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and Countess Dracula (1971). Like most of the main cast, British actors at this time couldn't afford to turn their noses up at TV work or horror films. Though Sandor's Hungarian accent often restricted him to playing villains.

Director Robert Fuest is always interesting, pushing for unusual but effective cinematography, set design and story ideas. Here there aren't any of his usual stylish sets, instead he uses the sparse locations, constantly achieving dramatic effects with subtle lighting and framing. He was the perfect choice as a director for many episodes of The Avengers, and his next few films are among my favourite ever - The Abominable Dr Phibes, Dr Phibes Rises Again, The Final Programme and The Devil's Rain.

I'm sure that the music is supposed to remind us of Hitchcock's films, but mostly it reminded me of The Avengers, until the intense climax where composer Laurie Johnson complemented the action with unique and eerie sounds.

The region 1 DVD is 16:9, but the 1.33 aspect I'm used to seeing on British TV looks better off unmatted. For example, some scenes of the girls cycling are so tight that you sometimes can't even see they're sitting on a bike - surely not the intention. But the DVD has a great commentary track with both Brian Clemens and Robert Fuest. Clemens' "necrophiliac" comment is a classic! There was a UK DVD release from Optimum soon afterwards.

December 17, 2010

SKY RIDERS (1976) - best ever hang gliding action movie...

What's the most dangerous way to liberate hostages?
A definitely 70s action movie centred on a fad, that's not related to disco or skateboarding. With a great cast and a Lalo Schifrin score, shot in 2.35 widescreen, this movie could still fly today (if it were ever given the chance of a DVD release).

A gang of Baader-Meinhof (style) terrorists, disguised in hockey masks, invade a wealthy industrialist's home and kidnap his wife (Susannah York) and two kids. For a lot of money and ammunition he can buy them back, but the Greek police (led by Charles Aznavour) don't want to give in to their demands. So while the husband (Robert Culp) is dealing with the police, ex-husband (James Coburn) tries to sneak into the baddies' hideout, high in a mountain-top monastery, and free the hostages by himself. How on Earth is he going to do that?

Hang gliders. For a while they were everywhere. James Bond had a high-flying stunt in Live and Let Die (1973). But the film that top hang glider experts recommend is Sky Riders for some of the best and most dangerous footage of the sport in its early days, before the fliers wore parachutes!

The skateboard movie 'genre' was aimed at kids and teens (encouraging them to try dangerous stunts like riding under moving lorries on their skateboards). But this pitches itself as a tough, adult thriller, completely contrary to the serene feeling of flying high in the sky without an engine. Hang gliders as action vehicles are also limited by their close resemblance to sitting ducks.

The opening kidnap is dramatic enough, with a detectable censor cut excising the death of one of the staff. There's then a long lull in the action as the rescue mission is planned, practised and mounted. Though it's fun to see some experts pretending to glide badly, standing in for Coburn's character as he's learning how to fly.

The fantastic, barely accessible location of the monastery, surrounded by natural sheer-walled mountains, is visually spectacular. Note that in the above photo there is more than one monastery. According to the Wikipedia entry, there are actually six surviving clifftop monasteries in the Greek valley of Meteora, each one perched on a natural sandstone pillar. One was used in the finale of For Your Eyes Only (1981) and maybe the same one was in the live action Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961). Horror fiction fans take note that Max Brook's novel World War Z also uses Meteora, a very handy place for hiding from zombies. I'll leave you to work out which monastery was in each -
the Wikipedia article has handy photographs of each one.

The gliding mission would be more exciting if we knew how technically dangerous it all is. No real hints are given as to how hard these flights are as they glide between the mountains, and luckily the armed guards seem oblivious to the whole exercise, as they sneak up to the fortress. Unluckily, their escape plan gets complicated.

The action ramps up as the police decide to storm the fortress as well, regardless of the fact they're endangering the hostages, oblivious to the rescue plan already underway. This loophole logic is purely to get as much firepower on the screen as possible. An astonishing 'high' point of the movie is James Coburn performing a perilous stunt hanging off a helicopter hundreds of feet in the air.

Not essential cinema, but a reminder of when big action scenes had to be shot for real. The story of the making of the film would probably be equally interesting. But this has a strong cast, stronger than the storyline anyway, and a gung-ho finale.

Robert Culp (the original star of the TV show I Spy) looks convincing on the big screen, at a time he was fighting to escape endless TV movies, and the story starts as if he's going to be the central character. But James Coburn (Our Man Flint, A Fistful of Dynamite) sneaks in later to steal the movie and all the best scenes! Seventies Brit-chick Susannah York (The Shout, Gold, Superman - The Movie) gets good mileage out of facing up to her female captor. Eccentrics Kenneth Griffith and Harry Andrews pep up the cast list but only get one scene each. Hunky John Beck (between supporting roles in Rollerball and The Big Bus) is largely wasted, despite being in the rescue squad.

I'm not a slave to auteur theory, but director Douglas Hickox did give us several cult movies that still endure - Brannigan (1975, John Wayne as a Dirty Harry-style cop wreaking havoc in London), Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959, another dinosaur wreaking havoc in London) and the marvellous Theatre of Blood (1973, Vincent Price as a Shakespearean serial killer wreaking havoc in London).

After catching most of Sky Riders on TV in the eighties, I wanted to try the whole film again, only to discover the VHS was going for silly prices on eBay. I can only blame the hang gliding fans, but it also renewed my interest. It isn't on DVD in the UK or US but I'd really like to see it in the original 2.35 widescreen. I've only ever seen this as a cramped pan-and-scan version on TV and on laserdisc.

The best pictures and posters online, used for this review, are also for sale at
Everard Cunion's hang gliding site reviews the film with notes about the hang gliders and stunt pilots.
This might be available as a legit DVD release in Spain, but there's no clues if it's widescreen, otherwise I'd pounce on it, like tiger.

The only clip on YouTube is this hang gliding display that gives Coburn's character the idea of how to rescue his family...

December 10, 2010

SOYLENT GREEN (1973) - film vs book


You can't say they didn't warn us...

Soylent Green is set in near-future Manhattan, when the population explosion is outrunning supplies of water, food, materials and even living space. In the middle of the overcrowded city a wealthy businessman is murdered, but as Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) tries to solve the case, he starts making deadly enemies...

The script was based on Harry Harrison's book Make Room! Make Room! which imagined the effects of extrapolated population growth. Set in 1999 Manhattan (while the film is pushed up to 2022), he simply plotted a graph as if no other factors will come into play - like for instance property prices that would force people out of the city. The premise is that Manhattan simply fills up to bursting point. With natural gas depleted, cars are left in the road to rot. With a lack of manufactured goods, society slows down.

While the film reverts to an unfolding murder-mystery conspiracy, the book is more of a slice of life showing the city through the different seasons. The murder connects the characters, but the author teases us that it could all just have been an accident. Instead Harrison shows us what conditions are among all walks of life. A scenario where Americans are forced to resort to a soya and plankton diet to survive, could be the author's joke at the expense of a meat-loving country.

Besides changing the emphasis of the novel from birth control to food shortage, the film uses the same overcrowded ground rules. While the only sci-fi 'gadget' in the book is a self-untangling barbed wire fence dropped from helicopters to cordon off rioters, the film replaces it by the people 'scoops'. The script also adds a chilling name for the women provided as part of a luxury apartment itinerary, they're called 'furniture'. The detective's ageing flatmate, Sol (Edward G. Robinson), gets upgraded in the film from an ex-cop to a human search engine, working for the police by using his lifetime of knowledge and research. Sol's demise in the film is also far more frightening and central to the story.

Harrison wrote an essay about the screen incarnation of his story for Omni magazine, reprinted in Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies (1984). Harrison was only half-happy with the resulting movie. After the script had been written without him, he put on a brave face and was present during filming to consult with the actors and designers. Annoyed that the plot had been switched to a more cliched, Hollywood thriller, he still gave the director, actors and production design credit for presenting a convincing premise. He also mentions there was studio pressure to cut Sol's death from the film, for fear it would cause offence as Edward G. Robinson passed away just after filming ended.

I'd agree that some of Harrison's propagandising on birth control should have stayed in the film. But the novel's murder plotline ends more by accident rather than detection. The film's famous reveal of the source of Soylent Green satisfyingly indicates that there's been wide damage to the ecosystem far beyond New York. While I can understand that Harrison is upset with the changes (maybe exaggerated by his raw deal while selling the rights to the book) I now feel that the film improves on the book as a story.

I was drawn back to the film after learning that Harry Harrison is still writing. He's just published a new story about his long-running character The Stainless Steel Rat. I loved these books in the seventies, and started reading the comic 2000AD when it started adapting his stories (artwork was by Strontium Dog's Carlos Ezquerra, with The Rat drawn to resemble James Coburn). Indeed Soylent Green also helped shape Mega-City One in 2000AD's Judge Dredd stories, like the horrors of Resyk...

Back in the mid-seventies when I first saw Soylent Green, it was part of a sci-fi wave of disaster warnings from the near future (three of which starred Charlton Heston). Planet of the Apes threatened nuclear annihilation. The Omega Man and The Andromeda Strain described planet-killing viruses. Westworld warned of malfunctioning entertainment androids. Silent Running predicted an Earth without forests... (Five years packed with futuristic catastrophe films then gave way to five years of modern-day disaster movies.)

At the time, I assumed these future worlds would always be fictional and never achieve science fact. After all, if the dangers of overpopulation had been publicly pointed out in something as major as a feature film, then everyone would be scared enough to steer us all away from disaster. In the nick of time? Wouldn't they?

The film shortens the timeframe and ignores Harrison's changing seasons. It even mentions the term 'greenhouse effect', adding green smog and permanently high temperatures. The last massive food source left in the world is plankton, but after decades of pollution the oceans are also in trouble. One scene casually depicts New York's Tree Sanctuary as literally containing one tree.

I can excuse the 1973 film failing to also predict cordless telephones or even computers (you could argue that it's because of the lack of manufactured resources or the unpredictable power supply), but it gets it right about global warming. Seeing it again, it's saddens me to have learnt about a growing ecological problem nearly forty years ago, when it's still not being taken seriously now. The world of Soylent Green is coming true. I expect that the director's commentary track is 97 minutes of Richard Fleischer yelling "I told you so".

Anyone who knows the last line in the film, may think they know what the film is all about. But jumping to the punchline is cheating yourself of many disturbing and well-constructed ideas. Two flatmates studying meat and vegetables as if they were blocks of gold. The food riot being controlled by dumper trucks that randomly scoop trouble-makers away. Families sleeping on staircases, the only way to get a roof over their heads. And of course, the unforgettable scene of Edward G. Robinson's character 'going home', cleverly, gradually unveiled.

Charlton Heston initially plays Thorn as a rational cop keen to tow the line and keep his job. But when his life is repeatedly threatened, his interrogation tactics get distinctly nasty. An interesting contrast to the scene where the apartment manager beats up his 'furniture', Thorn shows restraint by not decking the guy. I can't imagine a scene like that in a modern film, without the bully getting instant knuckle-justice. Instead it keeps the tension brimming and underlines that Thorn doesn't care (or being seen to care) about those women either.

This viewing, I was surprised to see a vintage arcade video game
Computer Space appearing in the film, gameplay looking like a forerunner of Space Wars and my beloved Asteroids. The Computer Space arcade game was first available in 1971 - that's ten years before Tron! It was a shock to learn just how long video games have been around.

The fast-cutting, photographic, split-screen, title sequence describes American progress from country life to a car-clogged industrial nation. It strongly reminded me of the pace and imagery of Koyaanisqatsi, though it predates it. (It can be viewed in a blog devoted to movie title sequences,
The Art of the Title.)

Other imagery from the film echoed in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1977), where bodies were also carried away in garbage vans, and in Blade Runner (1982), which also staged a gunfight in an overcrowded street.

I think Soylent Green still stands up as serious sci-fi and a gritty vision of a harsh future.

The current DVD release is 2.35 widescreen anamorphic, with a director's commentary track, an original trailer (that very nearly spills the Soylent beans) and two vintage featurettes that include behind-the-scenes footage of the food riots.

The CD soundtrack was recently released as a limited edition.

Here's the spoilery trailer on YouTube...

December 03, 2010

DANTE'S INFERNO (1935, 1924) - black and white visions of hell

Three films inspired by storyboards from the 19th century...
I'm not interested in the concept of hell as a final destination, but it's a great scenario for a horror movie - demons, chaos, torture and the like. The new video game (and spin-off animated movie) of Dante's Inferno demonstrates
that the story still powerfully captures the imagination.

While 13th century poet Dante Alighieri wrote his Divine Comedy in three sections, the first part Inferno focussed on the punishments of hell. While Dante's epic poem is highly regarded in Italian literature, it's the 1857 illustrations by Gustav Doré that are regarded as definitive. Doré's printing methods off wood engravings make his visualisations appear deceptively older.

Doré's fantastic and evocative work also drives the cinematic visions of Dante's Inferno, able
to inspire camera composition and lighting effects. The movie adaptions that I've seen (1924, 1935) are more interesting to me than any recent incarnations, because they bring to life the black and white gothic of Dore’s engravings. The scratchy faded quality of unrestored film even adds to their dreamlike quality. The films could almost be ancient newsreels of expeditions through the depths of hell.

I first became aware of the movies called Dante's Inferno from a few startling stills in Classics of the Horror Film and A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen (all shown here), before I encountered any of Gustav Doré's work. In both films, ambitious underworlds were realised through huge sets shrouded in flame and smoke, with special make-ups to transform actors into demons. The limited information around repeatedly guessed that the 1935 film had recycled the 'hell' footage from the 1924 version. But having seen both, this doesn't appear to be true.

The biblical morality and the classical precedents of art and literature also enabled film-makers the licence to fill the screen with torture and nudity...

The title actually refers to a fairground attraction, the story is of the people who run it. Spencer Tracy plays Jim Carter, a lazy sailor who loses his job as a ship's boiler stoker. He hits rock bottom when he has to make up as a black guy, (gulp), poking his face through a hole in a sideshow tent as a target for Coney Island punters to throw wooden balls at! I shudder to think what that game was called... Tracy remains in blackface for several more scenes, even as Pop McWade (Henry B Walthall - a regular performer for D.W. Griffith, also the scientist in Tod Browning's The Devil Doll) shows him around his elaborate exhibit devoted to Dante.

The two team up when Carter drums up new business for the empty attraction by hyping up all the famous, beautiful women of history that have been damned for eternity and the tortures they now endure. (Ironically, the film also sold itself by exaggerating the horrors of hell and the nudity of its inhabitants.) As the exhibit becomes a hit, Carter builds up an entertainment empire, only to fall foul of too many shortcuts in health and safety and the results of bulldozering his rivals...

The meandering storyline fails to portray Carter as being that much of a baddie, as his business practices are infinitely less shoddy than Gordon Gecko's. At home he's such a convincing family man it's hard to dislike him. He's hardly 'hell' material and the story is often far removed from anything from Dante. The climax is also confusingly off-topic, a spectacularly fiery disaster at sea which, luckily, only an ex-boiler stoker can avert.

The movie's highlight is Carter's guilty fever dream - an eight-minute descent into hell that absolutely looks like Gustav Dore's engravings. This haunting sequence is quite extraordinary, the focus of the film's publicity and posters. Huge elaborate sets, incorporating pools, fires, smoke effects and stuntwork, covered in dozens of half-naked extras. Cavernous functional scale models and matte paintings blend with the live action. Admittedly it all looks like it's from an entirely different film.

Obviously the writhings of the nearly naked actors had to be sufficiently subdued to get past the Hays Code, but the visible lessening of their suffering makes hell look, well, not that bad, and even a place I'd like to visit. There are only fit young men and women in this underworld. The women's bodies are practically obscured by overlong wigs, leaving the men to bear the brunt of the nudity. Frankly, they're all rather hot.

The hooded figures trooping around the underground mountains obviously inspired the hellish sequence 'inside' Disney's The Black Hole. Most of the 'vision of hell' is on YouTube, re-edited to the music of Enigma...

This movie is of interest as a Spencer Tracy vehicle, and as a melodrama with two spectacular scenes of disaster. But the vision of hell is easily worth the price of admission. Dante's Inferno (1935) needs a release on DVD, though it can still be spotted on TV on Turner Classic Movies.

To check if the 1935 version used any footage from the earlier film, I resorted to a 67 minute bootleg of this silent movie version. Here the story sticks closer to Dante's message, and spends far more screen time in hell.

Mortimer Judd is rich and ruthless. He kicks his pet dog, he's that bad. He's a slumlord during the depression, and his business has just bankrupted his next door neighbour, Craig, driving him to the brink of suicide. As a parting shot, Craig sends Judd a volume of Dante's Inferno, inscribed with a curse...

As Judd reads the book, the curse visits him in the form of a demon, causing him to visualise Dante's story. As the poet strays from the path, Beatrice summons Virgil to protect him (pictured) and lead him to safety, but the only way out is through hell... An angel even flies in with a blade of light, to force away attacking the demons and predatory creatures. As Judd watches Virgil leading Dante through hell, his life also descends in a downward spiral. The demon sends a few just rewards his way while he's alive, as a taster for his inevitable punishment in the fiery pit.

The story owes much to A Christmas Carol, though it's harder hitting in many ways, showing enthusiastic devils arriving to take away doomed souls from their expired bodies. The difference is that, unlike Scrooge, Judd can't see the supernatural visitor who is inspiring his visions and steering his fate.

Like the 1935 remake, hell is realised with huge sets, crowded caverns covered in naked extras, surrounded by flame and clouds of smoke. Foreground miniatures and forced perspective angles expand the scale of the vision, adding giant demons. The smaller devilish inhabitants are a lively lot, wielding flaming pitchforks and, ahem, whips. I noticed that the tableau of the naked girl being whipped (pictured above) had been censored out of this print, only showing the whipping, not the whippee. Possibly it was too sexual, too violent or too naked!

The damned being trapped under slab-like tombs, the curtain of fire, the forest of suicide victims, all come from the pages of Dante as drawn by Doré. But while several tableau are inspired by the same images as the 1935 remake, the footage has been filmed very differently, as far as I could see.

Coincidentally, this 1924 movie also has a character in blackface make-up, Judd's butler. A then-typical portrayal of slow-moving, eye-rolling comic relief. Watching some of his short films recently, it was interesting that Buster Keaton used black actors as incidental characters in his short films, around the same time and earlier, without such stereotyping or the need to use white guys in make-up.

This version of Dante's Inferno has the most lively and twisty plot, intertwined with many more ancient visions of damnation. But it isn’t available on DVD either. The consensus is that two reels (about twenty minutes) of the film has been lost forever (the original running time should have been 91 minutes), though the story didn't seem to suffer for it!

(1911, Italy, L'inferno)

While researching this article, I learned of an even earlier silent version from Italy. It's a straightforward recreation of Dante's tour through hell, led by the Roman poet Virgil. There's no 'wraparound' story set in the present day. Typical of the time, the action is presented wide and distantly, like a stage, with few cuts or close-ups.

This very early film starts off resembling the short films of George Melies, with very basic visual effects and pantomime devils, the main difference being the exterior locations, quarries and cliffs standing in for the caverns of the underworld, but rather overlit for somewhere that's supposed to be underground.

The achievements of the film become more evident further on. Dozens of near-naked extras portraying the damned in various stages of suffering, even being buried headfirst in the ground with their legs sticking out. Some basic splitscreen work to make the sky black, render a walking corpse headless, and portray the gigantic Lucifer.

More interesting costumes are the winged demons, and some elaborate animal suits of a lion, harpies and a gryphon. Though the wirework to make them fly is more like a scenery change. It's still an ambitious achievement for a time when movie-making was so young.

This version, the nearly-nude inhabitants of hell at least look like everyday folk, rather than the beautiful denizens of Hollywood's hell. Limbless people are even used to represent the damned, predating the climax of Michael Winner's The Sentinel!

According to a comment on IMDB, this was the first feature-length film to be screened in the US, breaking the feared 'one-hour' barrier, at a time when exhibitors didn't think audiences would sit still that long for a relatively new entertainment! Arguably this could then be described as the first ever horror film. Once again the main draw of the movie was a mix of nudity and torture.

Sadly this, the least interesting version of the three, is the only one out on DVD (pictured), as it was recently restored and rescored by Tangerine Dream.

The 1911
Inferno also has a website with more images.

Watching these again, my allegiances changed from 1935 to 1924 as my favourite film version, though the hell sequence in the 1935 version is easily the most spectacular.