By People Staff
September 23, 1985 12:00 PM

Dante had nothing on director Martin (Raging Bull) Scorsese, who sees evening romance in the Big Apple as only slightly less terrifying than an express run through the nine circles of hell. Scorsese’s Inferno, a poison valentine to New York City, is a comedy of startling originality, a racy, raucous ride through the night, bound to leave audiences reeling with laughter. The film’s co-producer, Griffin (An American Werewolf in London) Dunne, stars as a bachelor bored with his job as a word processor operator and with evenings alone in his apartment, switching cable TV channels. One night, reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in a dreary coffee shop, Dunne strikes up a conversation with appealingly available Rosanna (Desperately Seeking Susan) Arquette, who invites him over to her friend’s loft in the artsy Manhattan enclave of SoHo. And so begins Dunne’s waking nightmare—murder for him, mirthful for us. Scorsese, working with Fassbinder’s master cameraman Michael (The Marriage of Maria Braun) Ballhaus, finds eerie beauty in SoHo’s industrial lighting and rain-splattered streets, and fun in such details as the cannonball velocity of keys thrown from a loft window. A small but superbly crafted film, After Hours is expertly edited by Thelma (Raging Bull) Schoonmaker, and written by Joseph Minion, 26, who created it as part of his course work at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Division. Arquette’s monologue about her husband, a Wizard of Oz freak who can’t reach orgasm without shouting, “Surrender, Dorothy,” is a particular gem. The acting, even in the smallest roles, is uniformly splendid. Besides Arquette and Dunne, standouts include Teri (Tootsie) Garr as a sex-starved waitress trapped in a ’60s beehive hairdo, SCTV’s Catherine O’Hara, who tries to run down Dunne with her Mister Softee truck, Cheech & Chong as bickering thieves and especially sexy Linda (Gotcha) Fiorentino, a scene stealer as a kinky sculptress who involves Dunne in S&M, a suicide and a narrow escape from his own death. It’s not that they don’t make comedies like After Hours anymore. The fact is there’s never been a comedy quite like this one. (R)