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Salome, the daughter of Herodias, seduces her step-father/uncle Herod, governor of Judea, with a salacious dance. In return, he promises her the head of the prophet John the Baptist. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Initially I was skeptical when I heard that Alla Nazimova, 42 when this movie was made, was playing the 14 year old dancer Salome, but except for the extreme close-ups she actually manages to pull it off. Her Salome is a pouty but utterly monstrous Lolita, who would no doubt casually order the death of any underling who didn't satisfy her most fleeting, girlish whim. Evil yes, but like Herod you can't stop looking at her in her marvelous glam headgear and wigs, looking for all the world like a party girl headed out to a nineties' rave (on the other hand her fleshy mother and leering, lipsticked stepfather suggest the grotesques of Fellini's Satyricon, making me wonder if Fellini was influenced by this movie). Still, as compelling as Nazimova's performance is, much of this film's impact arises from Natacha Rambova's eye catching costumes and set designs. Based on the Beardsley drawings that accompany some editions of Oscar Wilde's play, they often resemble insect parts-beautiful but rather unsettling, like Herod's court itself. As far as the dramatic action goes, they are almost too eye catching they grab your attention and hold it nearly at the expense of all else. However I'm not sure that this effect wasn't intentional on the part of both Nazimova and Rambova (the guardsmen, for example, wear clay wigs that perhaps are deliberately meant to suggest statues). As I recall the original play was rather staticit's been a while since I read it, but what I remember mainly is the exquisite, poetic dialogue rather than the plot. At any rate, the movie is probably best viewed as a series of fantastic tableaux.
An odd but completely absorbing little film that deserves to be better known.
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