Edited by Gordon Gates on 8/26/2015, 3:12 am
This television movie of the week is a remake of the 1953 film, INFERNO. The original starred Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming and William Lundigan. The television version features Arthur Hill, Diana Muldaur and James Stacy. MacDonald Carey and Michael Ansara are in supporting bits.
For most of the film the story follows the earlier production. Hill, a millionaire type, is a mean drunk and drunk is what he is most of the time. Hill, his wife, Diana Muldaur, and a mining engineer, James Stacy, are out in the Nevada desert. They are going to inspect a claim that Stacy has out in the middle of nowhere. Stacy wants Hill to invest in the property.
The only way to get to the site, is on horseback up into the surrounding hills. Hill, half drunk, falls off his horse and ends up on a ledge 20 feet down a cliff side. He busts his leg during the fall and is in enormous pain. Stacy and Muldaur leave him some supplies and a canteen while they ride back for help.
Halfway back to the truck, Muldaur asks what would happen if they never returned with help. Stacy is not sure what to make of this, but answers that Hill would die inside the week. Muldaur smiles and she and Stacy start negotiations. Muldaur is tired of the way Hill treats her. They will make up a story about Hill getting drunk, then driving off with the truck and horse trailer. Hill has a history of going on drunken binges and disappearing for days at end.
Muldaur and Stacy set up the scene perfectly and then head back to town. Muldaur contacts Hill's business partner, MacDonald Carey, and explains that Hill took off in one of his rages. Several days go by before Carey gets worried and calls in the local law. The law, Michael Ansara, has his men out searching the desert. They soon find the abandoned truck with all the planted evidence. It looks like Hill wandered off on foot into the desert.
While all this is going on, Hill has figured out that the dear wife and Stacy are not returning. The lack of whiskey has lifted the fog from his mind. He has to get off the hill and back to town. He manages to brace his broken leg with some camping gear and starts his decent. Hill, battered and even more bruised, makes it to the desert floor.
He fashions a crutch and slowly heads back to the highway. The lack of water and food soon takes a toll on the man. He staggers around making barely any headway. He stumbles onto a small water hole the local wildlife use. This solves the water problem. Now he just needs to bag one of the critters that uses said watering hole.
Back in town, Muldaur and Stacy figure that enough time has passed for Hill to expire. They rent a small plane and Stacy pilots them out over the desert to have a look. What the hell? There is no sight of Hill on the hillside where they had left him. It is back to town for a car and a gun. They then drive back to the desert. They must make sure Hill is pushing daisies.
Of course things do not turn out the way Muldaur and Stacy would like. Hill eludes them and makes it out of the desert where he runs into Sheriff Ansara. Hill does not have his darling wife, or Stacy charged. He has discovered something about himself clawing his way back.
Francis Cockrell wrote the story for both the original and this remake. He also does the screenplay here. For some reason, he cuts out a main player and alters the ending for the television version. This cuts down quite a lot on the violence factor.
Watchable, but, Hill cannot match the intense rage Robert Ryan showed in the original as he fought for survival. Muldaur is good here, and Stacy has his moments in several scenes. Stacy would be in a horrible motorcycle wreck shortly after making this film. He would lose an arm and a leg in the accident.
Fans of the original will most likely find this version a bit tame.