Lot in Sodom is a sensual depiction of the Sodom and Gomorrah story filled with sinewy and semi-clad bodies, delirious bacchanales devoted to physical pleasure, and a searing, cataclysmic ... See full summary »
James Sibley Watson,
When Herodias divorces her husband and marries his brother Herod Antipas, governor of Judea, the prophet John the Baptist protests and is imprisoned. Salome, daughter of Herodias and both ... See full summary »
Late on Guy Fawkes Day, 1892, Oscar Wilde arrives at a high-class brothel where a surprise awaits: a staging of his play "Salome," with parts played by prostitutes, Wilde's host, his lover ... See full summary »
Mahlee and Blanche Sackville are half-sisters, Blanche the daughter of an Englishman and his wife, Mahlee of the Englishman and his Chinese mistress. Mahlee rejects her people and attempts ... See full summary »
A family of Polish refugees tries to survive in post-World War I Germany. For a while it seems that they are making it, but soon the economic and political deterioration in the country begins to take their toll.
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 <email@example.com>
Oscar Wilde's 1892 retelling of the Bible story of Salome, who danced before Herod to win the death of John the Baptist, was considered so depraved that the High Lord Chamberlain of England refused to grant it a license for public performance--and in the wake of Wilde's scandalous exposure as a homosexual and his subsequent imprisonment, all of Wilde's plays were swept from the stage. Wilde, who died in 1900, never saw his play publicly performed.
The worth of Wilde's plays were reestablished by the 1920s, but even so SALOME, with its convoluted and exotic language and hothouse sense of depravity, remained something of a theatrical untouchable--and certainly so where the screen was concerned. No one dared consider it until Russian-born Alla Nazimova, who is generally credited with bringing Stanislaski technique to the New York stage, decided to film it in 1923.
It proved a disaster. Theatergoers in large cities might be prepared to accept Wilde's lighter plays, but Main Street America was an entirely different matter--especially where the notorious SALOME was concerned, particularly when the film was dogged hints of Nazimova's lesbianism and by the rumor that it had been done with an "all Gay cast" in honor of Wilde himself. Critics, censors, and the public damned the film right and left. It received only limited distribution and faded quickly from view. Even so, the legend of both the film and its exotic star grew over time.
Given that much of the original play's power is in Wilde's language, SALOME suffers from translation to silent film--the title cards are often awkwardly long, and in general fail to convey the tone of Wilde's voice; moreover, the convolutions of the original have been necessarily simplified for the silent form. Even so, it is a remarkable thing in a purely visual sense. Directed in a deliberately flat style by Charles Bryant and designed by Natacha Rambova (wife of Valentino, she would also design Nazimova's silent CAMILLE), the look of the film seeks to reproduce the playscript's equally infamous illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley--and succeeds to a remarkable degree.
And then there is Nazimova herself. Well into her forties at the time she played the teenage Salome, Nazimova is an electric presence: while she often shows her years in close up, she is remarkably effective in capturing the willful, petulant, and ultimately depraved Salome in facial expression and body posture, balancing an over-the-top style with moments of quiet realism to most remarkable effect. The supporting cast is also quite memorable, with Mitchell Lewis (Herod) and Rose Dione (Herodias) particularly notable.
I would hesitate to recommend this film anyone other than someone already well versed in silent movies--and even then I would give the warning that it is unlikely to be what you thought it would. Still, this is a classic of its kind, and fans of silent cinema are urged to see it.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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