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In the reign of emperor Tiberius, Gallilean prophet John the Baptist preaches against King Herod and Queen Herodias. The latter wants John dead, but Herod fears to harm him due to a prophecy. Enter beautiful Princess Salome, Herod's long-absent stepdaughter. Herodias sees the king's dawning lust for Salome as her means of bending the king to her will. But Salome and her lover Claudius are (contrary to Scripture) nearing conversion to the new religion. And the famous climactic dance turns out to have unexpected implications... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This Technicolor extravaganza built around "Gilda" Hayworth's big dance number as a watered down Salome is one dishonest and cowardly piece of commerce to behold. With its attractive stars, superb supporting stage and film actors as well as a highly respected director of epics (Wilhelm Dieterle) and a master cinematographer (Charles Lang) Salome stumbles along for the entire duration with two left feet.
Taken from the familiar Biblical story of John the Baptist and later spiced up by Oscar Wilde the producer's (Rita being one) tweak it a little by downplaying Salome's culpability and having the rap to pinned on mom (Judith Anderson) allowing Salome a chance to get religion and Stew Granger as the film ends on a highly solemn and spiritual note with the camera tilting to the sky where the words "This was the beginning" are emblazoned. This after the stunning Miss Hayworth finishes her incestuous two step striptease grinding up a marble staircase in front of her step father, besotted Charley Laughton with Dame Judith smirking approval. The marketers must have thought 'something for the whole family'.
Where do we begin? Dieterle who directed Laughton in Hunchback as well as the unique fantasy world of a Midsummer's Night Dream fails to engage or create anything of authenticity or sincerity from performers to the cold barren sets and women draped in fabric colors usually reserved for Christmas wrapping. The B&W mastery of Lang ( Ace in the Hole, The Magnificent Seven) is no where evident in garishly lit scenes dripping gold and bleeding red.
Hayworth and Grainger are beautiful and brittle with Rita softening Salome; reducing what should be driving vengeance to limpid piety. Cedric Hardwicke isn't around long enough to chew scenery but Alan Badel as a tripped out JtB is. Laughton's Herod is the biggest travesty of all as he monstrously overacts, spending most of his time waving his arms or gripping Roman columns, his utterances unconvincingly peppered with pregnant pauses and hammy anxious expressions. He along with almost anyone else involved in this pitiful production one might well argue deserve the same fate as the Baptist. Salome is an out an out abomination.
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