Don't let the title fool you. Dante's Inferno tells the story of Jim Carter, a sociopathic Walt Disney-wannabe who steps on, swindles or ruins anyone in his path in order to build an unrivaled entertainment empire, starting with the Dante's Inferno amusement park attraction. With the help of his assistant Jonsey, Carter reaches the pinnacle of success with the purchase of a gambling ship, the S.S. Paradise. When a strike threatens to delay the Paradise's maiden voyage, Carter goes against the captain's advice and hires a shipful of inexperienced workers. The formula is complete: Drunk passengers + drunker scabs x a large flambé served too close to the inflammable drapes = inferno on the high seas. Moral: desserts kill.
|I'd take my kid to this over "It's a Small World."|
|Tracy pays close attention to Pop McWade's|
request to call the safety inspector.
The hell motif is present right from the beginning, when we see a ship's boiler room from the perspective of the coal oven, and builds as Carter's star rises (or sinks into a morass, depending on your point of view). And yet Carter himself is actually an excellent husband and father. Well, until his wife feels obliged to commit perjury regarding his bribe of a safety inspector -- a pay-off which led the Inferno to collapse on hundreds of innocent people, including his wife's uncle, Pop McWade. (I guess Uncle McWade was little too wordy.) The safety inspector, realizing the collapse could have been prevented, commits suicide. Doesn't anyone see a pattern emerging in dealing with this Carter guy?
|Some entrepreneur could make a fortune if he|
built a members-only club that looked like this.
|Don't mess with Spence.|
|Tracy warms up for a chorus of|
But perhaps there was something else going on. Tracy was never as close to his own son the way Carter is, and his marriage was on its way to being in name only, thanks to, among other things, falling deeply in love with his Man's Castle co-star, 22 year-old Loretta Young. A Jesuit school graduate, Tracy felt that his son being born deaf was God's punishment for his own laundry list of transgressions -- adultery, alcoholism, choosing show business over the priesthood, and his alleged bisexuality, to name a few.
Today’s audiences would respond to all of that with, “What else you got?” But Tracy himself might have felt he shared all of Carter’s bad traits without any of the good. Had he seen his image in the Spanish release of Dante's Inferno (the title of which translated to Satan's Ship), he might have thought he was staring into a particularly penetrating mirror. No way is Dante's Inferno the worst movie ever made. But when one looks at it with Tracy's own life in mind, it's probably his most fascinating.