Sunday, 22 July 2007
Madam Satan (1930)
Madam Satan, made in 1930, was Cecil B. de Mille’s second sound film. It may also be the most bizarre of all Hollywood movies. He was told by the studio that had to make a musical, so he gave them a musical, and he also gave them a classic exercise in High Camp. The first half of the film seems like a fairly straightforward if rather adult comedy about adultery. That’s before the party on board the zeppelin gets going. It’s the most decadent party you’ll see in a Hollywood film, featuring outrageous costumes and a mock slave auction where the women are “sold” to the highest bidder. The costumes include some of the most expensive ever created for a movie. And then the zeppelin is struck by lightning, and things get even more bizarre. There has never been a movie like Madam Satan, and to my way of thinking it established de Mille as the High Priest of Camp. It’s also a thoroughly entertaining movie, and a wonderful example of pre-code Hollywood wickedness.