Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hell's Gate

Made for Italian Television in 1989, Le Porte Dell'inferno is Umberto Lenzi's blast at the 'sub-terra' (as good a term as any IMO) sub-genre, which I would say includes the likes of The Descent parts one and two, and the pretty groovy Alien 2 On Earth as well as more mundane waste such as What Waits Below.  A scientist is attempting to break the record for spending the longest period of time living in caves underground, but when the monitoring team above lose contact with him during a panicked transmission they gear-up and head down into the caves to see what's going on, amazingly taking along a passing pair of eager students who state that they know the catacomb layout (as the caves are supposed to connect up to a nearby monastery ruin and they're into archaeology, etc), plus they happen to be carrying a map with them!  Beneath the surface strange things begin to happen, and it all may be the result of some long dead monks who have taken a particular dislike to any living beings who have strayed into their territory.

Featuring Italian exploitation regular Barbara Cupisti (who played in most of Michele Soavi's 'proper' films as well as Opera after having been one of the butchered victims in New York Ripper) and an intriguing premise, the story has quite a bit of potential, much of which is unfortunately diminshed during the repetitive, cumbersome nature with which the proceedings unfold.  Much of the film depicts the characters running around underground unable to get out, with the occasional death punctuating the hopelessness.  Admittedly there were a couple of scenes that sent a bit of a chill through me, but it's not quite enough to turn this into essential viewing.  Lenzi even attempts to recreate the infamous spider attack sequence from Fulci's The Beyond, with painstakingly anti-climactic results.  Unbelievably the final act even rips off Lenzi's own Nightmare City almost exactly!  A film that could have been quite a nice find ultimately remains nothing more than average.

EC Entertainment's old PAL/region 2 DVD provides a fullframe transfer - I suspect Hell's Gate was lensed on 16mm but can't find anything to back that up.  Whilst not exactly exploding with colour and detail it's certainly watchable.  The only audio track is Italian language, which suits me fine, whereas subtitles are available in either English, Dutch, or French.  The only extra is a Lenzi biography (text-based).  The artwork is also typically misleading (see above...).

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