In lacking almost everything else, there is one thing this film version of Dante's Inferno is not short of and that is the sheer chutzpah involved in dragging Dantes epic poem down to fuel a cheap redemption-of-the-avaricious morality play. There is a vilely pious attitude behind the film. It emphasises all the lurid mediaeval aspects of Dante and has Henry B. Walthall and Spencer Tracy hammer home the hellfire and guilt ... and then justifes it by having them say that it was only done to bring a little happiness into peoples lives. There seems a strong sympathy for the unemployed underdog, an attitude born out of the Depression era in the midst of which the film was made one of the things that Spencer Tracys character is vilified for is buying up the premises of a sideshow proprietor who is behind in his rent.
The one thing that makes the film worthwhile is its five-minute vision of the Inferno. This is stock footage that has been taken from the silent Dante's Inferno (1924), which was believed lost up until a few years ago. These scenes are the greatest evocation of the German silent film never made. They come filled with extraordinary images of naked bodies falling from burning cliffs; trees formed from the bodies of suicides; rows of people sitting on either side of an abyss with their feet chained across the gap; souls being crushed by the weight of the giant tombstones they are forced to carry; flying angels circling brimstone-clouded caverns and the like, all aided by a stentorious score. So outre and fantastic these scenes are, they only show up the laughable papier-mache Inferno sets and Devil costumes presented in the rest of the film. It is these lost glimpses of an hallucinatory vision of the Inferno rather than the shabby piety of the morality tale in the film wrapped around them that make Dante's Inferno worth watching.
Dante's Inferno has been filmed several times with silent versions made in 1911 and 1924, a puppet show involving cardboard cutouts with Dantes Inferno (2007) and the animated Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic (2010), as well as Peter Greenaways A TV Dante (1989), which contrasted readings of the poem with superimposed visual imagery.
Harry Lachman had directed several Charlie Chan films and made one venture into genre material with the mad scientist film Dr Renaults Secret (1942).
Vision of Hell Sequence here:-