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Salome an unappreciated masterpiece
kiweber22 December 2004
From the moment I saw the close-up of Nazimova (who plays the title character) with her crown of gently bobbing light-globes, I was entranced by this bizarre, magical, lovely film. That's why I was shocked to see its relatively low ratings on this website and the unflattering description by Mr. Warner. This is one of the strangest, most beautiful films I've ever seen, and certainly one of the more engaging silent films I've watched. Yes, it's highly stylized and the acting is way over the top, but realism gets awfully dull sometimes, especially in the silent format. Salome is a true original and a thing of great beauty. From the creative use of drawn set pieces to the spectacularly inventive costumes to Nazimova's perfectly controlled, dancer-like movements, the experience (and it really is that) has a mystical, otherworldly glow to it. A must-see for anyone interested in silent film, dance, costuming, or art nouveau.
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compelling if you're not expecting method acting
pocca18 May 2005
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 static—it'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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The Notorious Art Film Classic
gftbiloxi5 April 2005
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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Alternative View
aquest126330 October 2004
This film is brilliant. Go back and re-read the play, then re-read the biography of Oscar Wilde. Forget about the opera and other dramatic presentations. The film beautifully represents the slow pacing and strangeness of the play, and the personality of Wilde. Admittedly, for the first few milliseconds of watching the film I felt like bursting into laughter. Then the penny dropped, and I realized what was happening.This is not a blockbuster, it is an unusually thoughtful interpretation of a classic.
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Gadzooks 'tis a strange one
Salomé is set in the palace of Herod, actually in a feasting hall and a courtyard only, so it's a very hermetic movie. The idea is that Salomé is annoyed about John the Baptist rejecting her advances and so asks for his head on a silver platter, this is after she performs a highly charged dance for her father, for which he agrees to grant her any wish.

The art design is meant to be based very much on the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. I saw a large version of Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist at an exhibition once, it's a quite monstrously beautiful thing, and you get a feeling of a Salomé who wants to play with John's blood. If you also read Beardsley's "The Story of Venus and Tannhauser", which is a fine read, written by the great man whilst dying slowly in the casinos of Deauville, you will find naked erotic content that has nothing in common with this movie. The movie is perverse but in a quite different way, it has a beauty that is not nearly as profane as Beardsley's, but as good in its own way, it's Thespian and ripe with impotency and death. However that doesn't go anywhere near far enough in explaining the luminous and unnerving images created by Nazimova and M. Bryant.

So I think the scene is set very well, of an almost pre-moral world which is metaphorically benighted. Herod presides, a fish-faced man with a droopy wreath, and dirty darkened teeth which are surrounded by a rouged mouth and a heavily whitened face. He's got the appearance of a senile erotomaniac.

Salomé is a milk-and-honey-eyed nymph who peers out tentatively from kohl rings beneath a baubeled coiffure. She is ignorantly innocent as well as tempestuous, and is played by Nazimova, director Charles Bryant's wife. Beardsley's Salomé in contrast has been inducted into depraved rites.

John the Baptist is a gaunt imprisoned man with a fanatic's stare who is portrayed rather irreligiously as a kind of Christian sadist, wishing all sorts of nasties on the women of the court. Shots of him in his cell are brilliant and are positively Sternberg-ian in their luminosity and blasphemous nature (think of the way Russian orthodoxy is portrayed in The Scarlet Empress).

The genius of the film really I think is that it has a slow miasmic tempo, which is achieved by always having slowly wafting fans towering over the court to cool the night down.

Another satisfying thing about the film is that the intertitles, presumably poached from Wilde, are extraordinarily well written. The main detractor from L'Herbier's L'Argent for me is very substandard and naive intertitles. Intertitles can generally only detract from a movie, in Salomé we have a totally unusual example of the opposite.

It's a haunting movie, which more than once made me mutter astounded compliments under my breath. Examples including the "leap", the veil dance, and the peacock montage. I would like to have been there to see what they did with the veil dance to make it so diaphanous, I have an idea they could have done it with strong lighting, the effect was pretty amazing to me.
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very unusual but is it art?
didi-51 June 2001
Having read the reviews of this on the Silents Majority website and in Time Out film guide I was curious. It looked good from stills and the play is one of my favourites ... the film is extremely odd. Nazimova, who looks like Gloria Swanson only more over the top, is a seductive and teasing Salome, dancing the seven veils with style, driving Herod mad, taunting the Baptist (a gaunt stick of a man who is quite disturbing to look at). The guards are all extremely camp and OTT and the whole film has that feeling of the extremes of twenties decadence. One feels Wilde would have approved. Not a patch on the opera but a decent stab at a play which is full of excess. It just wouldn't work with sound. It has to be images, and this is full of them.
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Bishi and Salome - a winning combination
Igenlode Wordsmith8 March 2009
Alla Nazimova in the silent "Salome" at the Bird's Eye View Festival, National Film Theatre:

The film and accompaniment were much more enjoyable than I'd been expecting -- both from what I'd heard of it and, alas, from last year's precedent of female performers... I can see why it has been described as too long: the whole thing is more operatic than filmic, and I do remember marvelling even at the time over the way that a single line in the Bible story -- "Bring me the head of John the Baptist!" -- is strung out over half-a-dozen shots before the detail of what Salome wants is even disclosed. Never mind the fact that it's repeated five or six times at great length before she actually gets Herod to agree...

But the key to "Salome" is Aubrey Beardsley; apparently Nazimova deliberately set out to create a work of art based on the Beardsley illustrations to Oscar Wilde's play "Salome". As the lady who did the introduction told us: sometimes it's a bit too obvious that the director is more interested in reproducing the original illustrated poses than in any kind of dramatic plausibility!

Now, I don't *know* the drawings for Wilde's "Salome", and even so I could recognise the inimitable Beardsley style. If her main concern was trying to animate the drawings, it's a brilliant job... But I found it quite compelling as an experience as well.

Really it isn't a true silent film at all: it starts off with about six screens of pure text, for heaven's sake! It's a series of tableaux illustrating each utterance as it's given -- more like a ballet than a piece of cinema, only easier to follow the plot of... It's pure spectacle, with a cast of grotesques (the only one I didn't take to was the implausibly hairy Herodias -- I can guess at the sort of illustration that was supposed to echo, but that sort of hair just looks messy in photographs, as opposed to being delineated in wave after wave of close-drawn lines).

But it didn't strike me as too long at all, and that was on account of the music. It was the sort of thing I'd never encounter normally, let alone choose to listen to -- just as I'd never normally subject myself to a heavily stylised, 'arty' film whose acting is about as artificial as it gets. ("Salome" is about as naturalistic as "Beyond the Rocks"... but it's so far over the top that it gets away with it, whereas the Swanson/Valentino picture just sags.) The performer was a young Indian-looking woman credited only as "Bishi", with an impressively long list of achievements and venues which meant nothing at all to me -- evidently we move in quite separate worlds. Her costume resembled that of Herodias, while her golden hairpiece would not have appeared amiss within the film itself.

The music was a 'fusion' of sitar, electronica, live percussion, quarter-tone-sounding vocals and simple Western-style melodic lines to the song; quite indescribable and very alien and exotic to my ears. But for this queer off-beat decadent style it worked amazingly well: unsettling and beautiful in equal measure. Even snatches of English lyric over the action -- let alone over the intertitles! -- worked: the words she was singing were no part of the words on screen, and yet they formed an extra dimension describing the characters, and returned and fitted later, linking back. It was uncanny. During those long, long shots you were sitting there absorbed in the music, and the music and the images fed on one another...

Casting was good. Herod was a loose-lipped tyrant weakling reminiscent of Charles Laughton's later Henry VIII; Nazimova is a tiny slip of a thing who can pass as a child (she must have been pushing forty when she made this, surely?); Jokanaan is an incredible beaky emaciated charismatic, wild and ugly and yet believable as an object of lust. Herodias I didn't care for (and the music didn't work so well where moments of comedy were intended).

Costumes and make-up are... so far over the top as to be an art in themselves. Again, the reference is clearly Beardsley. We don't get to see the severed head, which is a bit surprising -- it's usually the pièce de résistance of the special effects department -- but probably a wise decision, as the idea of kissing one of those smeared drained mutton-like objects is always deeply unalluring! The image of blood seeping over the moon, on the other hand, is uncanny.

Apparently the American press were deeply suspicious of the film on its release, while the English press said it was Great Art... "Salome" is far too static and wordy to be a feature film in the terms of 1923: it's verging on being experimental art (Nazimova supposedly thought of it in terms of a Russian ballet). But in combination with the music of Bishi it's a mesmerising experience unlike any normal cinematic entertainment. I found it still a little stilted at times ("thou rejectedst me"!?) but in its own terms very largely successful.

If I'd known what I was getting into, I shouldn't have gone. But I'm certainly glad that I did!
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I Was Amazed by the Visuals
Hitchcoc13 November 2018
I can't call this a great movie. What I can say is that from the first scene, I was drawn in by the pure spectacle. The characters with their profuse makeup and strange costumes, the set, the movement of the adult and child slaves, were hard to turn away from. The intensity of everything as the John the Baptist character, imprisoned, though loved by Herod, stays true to his calling. Salome, played by the filmmaker, is ruthless and petulant. I'm sure there were times when the Bible version of the story was twisted a bit, but I couldn't take my eyes off it. Of course, I know the story and that made me look more deeply into the presentation of that tale.
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An Undervalued Classic
R28284 June 2005
This film is the culmination of the silent era. Through the blending of mystical dance, conceptual art, and unprecedented design, Nazimova and Rambova take us all beyond the confines of any set time or place and into the murky, ever changing tides of creativity. There is simply an essence radiating from behind each scene or perhaps even filtering out through it. It's up to the viewer to give this energy it's own ideal. Few films attempt this type of transparent mysticism. One is left with the distinct impression that more than a classical tale is being told. I highly recommend this film as an addition to any collection. It's not your average black and white, but then again the distinction of difference is well-deserved.
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Nazimova's Dance Macabre
wes-connors23 September 2010
By the early 1920s, Alla Nazimova had lost her standing as one of the premiere actresses of her time. She had an appeal some compare to Greta Garbo, with much-acclaimed performances in films such as "War Brides" (1916), "Revelation" (1918), and "Out of the Fog" (1919). Unfortunately, these films are presently unavailable. Today, Nazimova's most widely seen silent film appears to be her ludicrously impressionistic version of "Camille" (1921), which was precisely the sort of film which made audiences and exhibitors conclude Nazimova's star had set. By the time "Salome" was released, her appeal was low.

This is unfortunate because "Salome" was the best of Nazimova's art-house period, and could have been a hit comparable to some of the foreign imports of the day. It follows the plot of Oscar Wilde's play, but works more as a visual feast of images. Nazimova's opening hair style alone is among best in all of filmdom. A heavily "homosexual look" (many said) to the film has been said to stem from Nazimova's use of an exclusively gay cast and crew, including most notable stylistic contributions from Natacha Rambova (aka Mrs. Rudolph Valentino). Like a lot of hyperbolized Hollywood, the whole is more of a bisexual affair.

********* Salome (10/22) Charles Bryant ~ Nazimova, Nigel de Brulier, Mitchell Lewis, Rose Dione
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A Silent Era Medieval Ballet
iquine25 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
(Flash Review)

This was a hidden gem in a Netflix collection of female director pioneers of early silent films. "Salomé" had concentrated and slowly rising intensity, which is unique for the era. It was full of moody atmosphere with a costumes, an outstandingly aggressive staccato music score, lighting and shot framing. It was a meaty, deep and engrossing visual tale. The story is loosely based on the biblical story of King Herod and his execution of John the Baptist as his stepdaughter, Salomé, demanded. For whom he has a lustful eye for. He pleads with her to do a dance for him while the Queen sits next to him. He goes as far as to promise Salomé an abundance of riches and they settle on 'one wish'. What price will King Herod pay to watch Salomé dance? This had a similar vibe to the other silent film "Passion of Joan of Arc" with emotional intensity. This is probably more approachable for viewers with a passion for all film.
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gkeith_112 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Awesome, beautiful costumes and hair. Clown Herod. Pest filled hair of Herodias. Designing very wonderful.
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Delicious art film
Phillim2125 June 2017
The legendary Nazimova's great labor of love. From the Oscar Wilde play, sometimes banned for obscenity. Sets and costumes based on Aubrey Beardsley's decadent illustrations for the published Wilde script. Rumored for years that every single performer in the film is gay. I like to think it's true.

Worth multiple viewings -- layers of fine art and design, camp, literary pedigree, real drama, theater history, etc. One understands from a film like this how that stagy old-style of melodramatic pantomime, tableaux vivants, etc. works as long as you are consistent with a clear vision.
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The culture clash between American cinema and expressionism couldn't have worked out better
Gloede_The_Saint17 November 2011
Who would have thought the Americans would do expressionism so well? This is so out there that it even gives From Morn to Midnight a run for it's money. But effect is completely turn around. Sure, the absurdity is still there, but German expressionism is usually bound in some form of horror, this is bound in a biblical drama. It's just so ridiculous and over the top that I couldn't help getting pierced to the screen. Everything is exaggerated, the guards are parading around with their chests blown up like roosters, horrendous wigs and the most feminine gestures. And our lead, Salome, acts equally absurd, and her mother looks like a John Waters character. This is simply camp at it's finest. Not sure how much was intended, most probably, if not all, but hell, I don't care. My favorite movie of 1923 this far! 9/10.
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SALOME' (Charles Bryant, 1923) **1/2
Bunuel19768 December 2011
This is extremely faithful to the spirit and letter of Oscar Wilde's play (at least, judging by Ken Russell's 1988 interpretation of it in SALOME'S LAST DANCE). While I rated it higher than the latter, this is mainly because it is visually redolent of the Biblical spectacles of the Silent era (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS {1923}, BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE Christ {1925} and THE KING OF KINGS {1927}, to name the more obvious examples), being a straight adaptation as opposed to a 'performance' – even so, while it may have readily jumped on the spectacle bandwagon, the result is unsurprisingly verbose for a non-Talkie and, in any case, its real raison d'etre was apparently as a paen to Wilde's transgressive lifestyle since it has been stated that the entire cast was homosexually-inclined (with several prancing courtiers and even minor female roles being filled by men)!

The star is Alla Nazimova (billed only by her surname) who, at 42, appears in the title role – a character who was supposedly all of 14 years old! Though her real age is undeniably betrayed in close-ups, for the most part, her lanky figure supplies the requisite illusion of youth; to get back to its proximity to Wilde's text (and, by extension, Russell's rendition), Salome is made out to be something of a nymphomaniac, if not quite as gleefully wicked as Imogen Millais-Scott in the later version. For the record, of the remaining cast members, only Nigel De Brulier's name – in the part of a rather scantily-clad John The Baptist and actually referred to as Jokanaan(!) – was familiar to me, from a number of swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks vehicles and even THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939; as it happens, directed by the gay James Whale), with the woman playing Herodias being noted, if anything, for her disheveled hair-do (though, when the scene shifts to the terrace, it then appears inexplicably combed!).

Again, the narrative of the two films are very similar: from The Baptist's wardens pleading with Salome (by the way, an accent is inconsistently placed throughout over the 'e') to leave the prophet alone, with the soldier (whom the girl blinds with false promises of affection) eventually committing suicide because, as he says, he "cannot endure it". Likewise, the latter's servant being jealous of his attentions for the Princess and, ditto, Herodias berating her husband for his incestuous leering over the girl (having already assassinated his own brother and usurped the throne in order to win the Queen's favors!). Perhaps the film's mainstay are the incongruously outlandish costumes (created by Natacha Rambova, noted wife of the even more famous Rudolph Valentino – the silver-screen's Latin Lover prototype whom Ken Russell would himself deal with in a 1977 biopic!), from Nazimova's bejeweled hair to the over-sized outfits of her ladies-in-waiting, which conveniently obscure Salome while she is changing into her dancing attire (though the film-makers seem to have forgotten all about the Seven Veils in this case)! For the record, Rambova (who is said to have been Nazimova's lover before she was Valentino's) also designed the sets and did the screen adaptation herself, the latter under the assumed name of Peter M. Winters!

The climax is somewhat confused, though: first, we have a Nubian giant (who had stood guard by the castle walls all through the picture) being asked to behead The Baptist but, when he goes down to the pit where the prophet is incarcerated, the latter's Holy words apparently convert him. Yet, all of a sudden, we cut to Salome already with the proverbial silver platter (or "charger", as it is called here) in hand, albeit covered-up – however, it was only after she has put in on the floor and bowed down beside it, all the while pining for Jokanaan's red lips, that I realized the deed had already been done! Finally, after Herod gives out the order for Salome to be slain (and his spear-sporting minions dutifully oblige), the film simply ends on a long-shot of her corpse and Herodias looking upon it in horror (at least, Russell's theatrical framework lent the whole a better sense of closure and, if anything, given the propensity of the foreword here, one would have expected at least a matching coda!).
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A must-see for those not threatened by silent films.
innocuous29 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If you enjoy recent independent films and you are not threatened by silent films, then "Salome" is a film you need to watch at least once. It bears small relationship to Wilde's original work, since Wilde worked in language and the film is, of course, limited to title cards. But it was (and remains) an interesting experiment that stands up well with many other silent classics. The camera work is pretty pedestrian and the performances are typical for that era, but the costuming and sets are fairly daring.

Nazimova really pulls it off as the 14-year-old Salome, though Mitchell Lewis and Rose Dione don't fare as well. The supporting actors are quite good as they ham it up. (Between the costuming and the mincing portrayals, this is about the "gayest" film prior to "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".) It's been 85 years since this film was produced and I have yet to see a better light-bulbs-in-the-hair do than Salome's. You really have to give Rambova (and Beardsley) credit for their vision.

As for the guessed it: John the Baptist dies.

Give this short silent flick a chance, if you have the opportunity.
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A film more interesting to select audiences than general ones
pontifikator18 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This silent movie is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, starring Mitchell Lewis as Herod, Alla Nazimova as Salome, and Rose Dione (who played Madame Tetrallini in "Freaks") as Herodias, wife of Herod. The director was Charles Bryant.

I've read Wilde's play but never seen it. I was concerned about taking this great poet's play and making it a silent movie, but overall I think the movie is a success. However, I stopped expecting the play and took the film on its own. There are some long title cards to wade through with some of Wilde's dialogue, but basically we have to take the movie as its own silent work of art.

This is a movie I would recommend only to select portions of viewing audiences. The sets were by Natacha Rambova, and they were an attempt to suggest the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations in the printed copy of Wilde's script. The sets and scene designs are excellent in and of themselves and capture Beardsley's spirit admirably. Much of the opening is composed of static shots of actors posing, giving I suppose the Beardsley-like sets the attention they merit, but some audiences may find the opening shots unintentionally humorous and perhaps over-long.

The costumes are also clearly inspired by Beardsley, so while we have suggestions of clothing worn by Sadducees, Pharisees, Romans, and so on, great liberties were taken, and the materials were much richer than I imagine was available back in the days of Herod. The style was much grander, as well. One of Salome's costumes is a totally modern strapless mini- dress, by the way, and Herodias reminded me throughout of Robert Crumb's prototypical hippie woman.

The acting, like the sets and costumes, was not natural at all. This is a very stylized production. I was amazed, though, by Nazimova's pantomime of expressions flitting across her face as she was wooed by Herod and then rejected his advances. Nevertheless, much of the acting is dramatic posing of the characters for a few seconds in a static shot.

Yet ... many of those static shots are excellent compositions with great lighting, especially the chiaroscuro effects when we see Jokaanan (also spelled Iokaanan) in his cell. It's a fascinating movie with many faults, I'm afraid. (I am reminded for some reason of Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter.")

I think this version of "Salome" will be appreciated by select groups; persons interested in Beardsley, Expressionism, art films, scene and costume design, and other such esoterica will find the movie more interesting than general audiences, but general audiences may be intrigued by "Salome" as well.

As a note, Natacha Rambova was born in Salt Lake City as Winifred Shaughnessy. At 17, she ran off to New York City, changed her name, and studied ballet under Russian Theodore Kosloff. Rambova began an affair with the married Kosloff, and her mother brought charges of statutory rape against him. Rambova fled to England to avoid the trial, and her mother relented, giving Rambova her way. It was through Kosloff that Rambova and Nazimova met. The affair with Kosloff ended (he shot her as she was leaving), and Rambova began an affair with an American actor known as Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was married at the time, and the affair complicated the divorce, but eventually Rambova and he were married. She worked with him on several of his films as costume and art designer.

Nazimova was born in Yalta as Miriam Leventon. She took as her stage name that of a character in the Russian novel "Children of the Streets." She was a major star in pre-World War I Russia and was brought to Broadway, where she was also popular. She also became a star in Hollywood, and she began producing and directing her own films. However, "Salome" was such a complete failure that she could no longer attract financing, so she returned to the stage.

Ken Russell directed a movie in 1988 called "Salome's Last Dance," which incorporated the play as part of a somewhat larger story involving Oscar Wilde's birthday. I'd forgotten who Ken Russell is until I saw the film. Only Stratford Johns (as Herod) was good in his role; the rest of the actors (including Glenda Jackson, I'm sorry to say) engaged in histrionics to put it mildly. Imogen Millais-Scott (as Salome) had two expressions: opening her eyes very widely and squinting. However, there was lots of nudity to save the day. Ken Russell fans will love the movie, but it's of little help appreciating Wilde's one act play, which must be padded to make it a full length movie (by, for example, adding in stuff about Wilde's birthday). Bryant's version follows the play and runs about an hour; "Salome's Last Dance" goes for an hour and a half.

Millais-Scott has her own interesting story. She had diabetes since childhood and was legally blind when the movie was made. She has since had a transplant of kidneys and pancreas after renal failure; the transplanted pancreas has cured her diabetes (though not her blindness), but she has not returned to acting.
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More a series of Tableaux Vivants than a movie
ajoyce1va28 September 2008
When reading viewer comments on this forum, I often wonder if they and I have seen the same film. What did the people (there are a few) who liked almost two hours of this nonsense see that I didn't?

In 1923, when Nazimova made this, Art Nouveau and Victorian Decadence were over, over, over, but she pushed ahead anyway. You can blame Middle American socially conservative values for the failure of the project, but I would say that there are plenty of other reasons that "Salome, The Movie" tanked: posturing instead of acting, declarations instead of dialog, buffoonery (Herod and Herodias) paired with painful sincerity (everybody else) and not quite meshing, a really bad dance number from Nazimova, and the overwhelming sense of self-importance that pervades the entire production.

Then there are the absurdities. The Captain of the Guard kills himself because he can't stand the idea that Salome might love someone else. Okay, a bit over the top, but acceptable in a piece of fiction. However, it's absurd to have the character portrayed as (or by) someone who clearly never had any erotic interest in women. Ditto for showing John the Baptist first tempted by Salome and then rejecting her on moral grounds, when either the actor or the portrayal is of someone with the same sexual orientation as the Captain of the Guard.

A one-line review might state: they all stay in character and take themselves very seriously. In this movie, that's not a good thing.

The credits give a nod to the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations as the basis of the costume design. I think there's more to it than that: Nazimova used the Wilde libretto as a framework for the action, but I think she was really trying to bring the Beardsley illustrations to the screen with herself as the center of attention. Give Middle America a little credit for at least a modicum of good taste. This is not artistry -- this is narcissism.

And by the way, one post here suggests that Fellini drew on this film for inspiration. Perhaps, but I see the lines of inspiration going from Herod, as portrayed here, to Harpo Marx, whom Herod very much resembles, and from Herodias to Ma Kettle.
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This movie ranges somewhere between far out and awful.
irvingwarner9 May 2004
This version of "Salome" features the great and weird Nazimova as Salome. It was written and produced by her. This movie is a hybrid between ballet, stage drama, cinema, grand opera and a very bad afternoon soaper. Great for tableaus of the weirdest sort, and in a way, it is almost worth seeing for them. The sets are very weird, imaginative and always interesting. But the acting is posing, and so overdone that it is comical. This effort took the big nose dive at the box office, which figures. Seems like a West Berlin bit of German Impressionism, but believe it or not, this is American.
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The campiest of all silent films
arneblaze17 April 2002
In a mere 39 minutes this one set "pantomime" manages to be the most outrageously campy silent film ever. Get those guards, and their extreme poses -two of the gayest lads ever to grace the screen. And get that big budget for marshmallows -they all wear marshmallow necklaces and Nazimova has them popping out of every hair follicle. It's over the top silent posture acting at its worst but it's a lot of fun as well. Rambova deserved some sort of award or at least a nomination for her outrageous costumes (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR owes everything to this production). You'll howl.
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This is one you need to see to believe...
MartinHafer16 January 2010
Wow--you have got to see this film for itself. There is absolutely no way I can adequately describe the look of the film--nothing I say will do it justice. I will try--but see it yourself--it's amazing. The film looks very much like it was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement--which would coincide with when the play was written (the very late 19th century). And, to go along with this, the costumes are wild--very, very ornate and very, very artsy. All of the costumes are totally unique. I particularly loved Nazimova's headdress. It must have cost a fortune to design and execute all this. As I said, you just have to see this! It's a fashion designer's delight--though some might blanch at its weirdness.

The story of Salome is taken from the Biblical tale of John the Baptist. Though occupying just a tiny portion of the Gospels, here is it acted out in about 75 minutes. Young Salmone dances enticingly for the ruler of Judea, Herod. He is smitten with her and promises her anything. She asks for the head of John the Baptist--who Herod is holding captive.

What makes this so unusual is HOW it's done as well as the highly unusual cast. If the IMDb trivia is to be trusted, it has an all-gay cast (unusual for a Bible story) and Nazimova was apparently a well-known bisexual. And, instead of a simple retelling of the story with cool costumes, the entire thing is very, very artsy and somewhat pretentious. It is NOT a film designed to be enjoyed by the masses--but is more an art house sort of production. Frankly, I think there was way too much in the posing and looking into space department! Overall, I'd give the costumes a 10 and the acting and plot a 2. Overall, a 4 seems fair considering that the film isn't particularly enjoyable despite the wow-factor of the look of the film.
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Outstanding In Its Artifice And Mannerisms
FerdinandVonGalitzien19 June 2009
Sometimes there is a weird silent film production very difficult to classify after so many years have passed since its premiere; this is true even for this German count, a strange fact given that the aristocracy are accustomed to unusual subjects.

This silent controversy is true of "Salome", a strange oeuvre that even nowadays shocks the audience by its eccentricity and singularity. It was directed by Herr Charles Bryant in the silent year of 1923, and starred his wife ( or something like that because they lived in sin during many years… ) the also unclassifiable Dame Nazimova.

Filmed in an unique and theatrical set ( there are few different shots outside the main setting ), this extravagant oeuvre was the first film adaptation of the great writer Herr Oscar Wilde's play,which tells of the capricious and ill fated infatuation between Dame Salomé and Herr Jokanaan .

Many adjectives comes to this German count's mind watching this peculiar silent film production, a baroque oeuvre with bizarre costumes inspired by the great Herr Aubrey Beardsley illustrations together with suggestive décors that are outstanding for their originality and the same time modernity ( the "Art Nouveau" is the inspiration) and stilted performances that give the film an atmosphere of careful theatricality that fits well with its artistic and original intentions. It is of course, an adaptation of a biblical story though with a decadent touch.

Obviously Herr Charles Bryant's "Salome" is not one of those DeMille' biblical productions in content and form ( thank Gott! ); Dame Nazimova gives to the oeuvre a perverse sensuality and creates a lustful atmosphere hanging over the other characters. The film plays with ambiguity and loose-living, an interesting combination of hedonism and lechery.

"Salome" is a capricious, original silent film rarity which is outstanding in its artifice and mannerisms at the service of an exuberant staging and is intentionally overacted. It is an audacious and controversial film even after so many years.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must do a belly dance for one of his Teutonic rich heiress.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien
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Shallow Artsy Posturing
thinbeach28 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
An excerpt taken from the Bible when Herod ruled the throne, this is a creep show with morally lacking characters. Herod lusts over his stepdaughter Salome and promises her the throne (over her mother, no less) if she will dance for him (doesn't take much to get the throne!). Salome initially rejects the offer, desiring the imprisoned prophet John instead, but when John rejects her she has him killed.

The staging reminds me of a tableau vivant, and story doesn't offer much more than that. It is not a compliment to say the most memorable thing is the costume design - full of elaborate hats and wigs, a lipsticked Herod, a short dress designed to show off our heroines legs, some sort of white painted nipples for an apparently straight gay man, and bare chested black slaves forever in the background, waving umbrella like flowers over the Royals to fan them. Characters sway and open their arms wide and look to the sky and take an eternity to do anything, before finally that dance happens. Herod looks like he's going to have a heart attack for excitement, apparently unaware it is a contender for most embarrassing dance routine ever recorded. Can you believe they made this with a straight face?!

IMDb trivia also tells us this film flopped at the box office. I don't always agree with the general public, but in this case they are far closer to the money than those out there dubbing it an 'art film classic'. Just because it has funky costumes does not mean it is a classic. To date I have not yet seen or read anything by Oscar Wilde that I liked, and Salome is no different. A film set in pre-Christ Babylon, I guess it should have been expected..
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Frighteningly bad!
elefino-912-4084579 November 2018
Awful rubbish. Made by, and for, the same sort of self-absorbed elitists who today consider it art to hang a toilet seat in a gallery and call it brilliant conceptualization.

Some of the more critical reviews have called it posing and "tableau". But it can't even live up to that sad commentary. It's merely posturing... and poorly executed posturing, at that!

The only satisfying aspect of this, what may well be the worst garbage ever preserved on film (pronounce that GAR-BAZZZH), is that it ruined Nizimova financially and she never recovered. Well deserved recompense for the punishment those of us who've watched this horrendous thing were subjected to.
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beachy-384319 November 2018
Where did they find such ugly actors? Was everyone that ugly in 1922? And the dancing is horrible!
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