Monday, March 17, 2014

Madam Satan

This weekend we actually saw two films in the theater, a rarity with two freelancers in the same household. Yesterday was Wes Anderson's THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Everyone's talking about that one, so I'm going to talk about MADAM SATAN instead.

Pre-code films are often gloriously outrageous in one way or another, and this is no exception. Made in 1930 and directed by Cecile B. DeMille, its an early and truly uneven musical. The characters are all pretty odious too, from the cheating cad of a husband Bob to the maid who advises her employer Angela to do everything she can to make her husband happy. Surely whatever he does is Angela's fault, the film (written by a trio of women, amazingly) suggests. If you aren't familiar with this era of filmmaking, please don't think that they're all like that! Both IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and TWENTIETH CENTURY are from 1934 and both are sharp and smart. Anyway, I don't think anyone would ever watch MADAM SATAN for the plot. Instead, it's more than worth seeing for the sheer amount of crazy that appears on the screen once the mistaken identity plot gets going. And the beautiful Deco designs!

Poor Angela. Bob says she's cold next to showgirl Trixie. So Angela decides that she'll be so hot that "it'll take a whole fire station to put me out!" She crashes a swinging costume party aboard a zeppelin (!) just as the "most beautiful women" are being auctioned off (!) to the highest bidder. Is this a charity function of some sort? Why no, it's to advertise an oil company apparently. There are a ton of insane costumes, an ode to electricity, women serving drinks while pedaling around in little model dirigibles, and, of course, the devil herself. Angela, in her amazing costume, is unrecognizable to everyone, including her husband. She puts on an accent and coyly asks "who wants to come to hell with Madam Satan?" There's a crazy dance-off and then a lightning storm, followed by a mass bail-out as party-goers dressed as golden pheasants, clouds, and Hindu gods parachute through the sky. Baz Luhrmann's THE GREAT GATSBY had nothing on this!

I mean, check these out:
A musical ode to... Time?
Angela (Kay Johnson) costumed as Madam Satan
She's dressed as the "spirit of rain"
I'm glad I saw this at the Egyptian in Hollywood, threadbare around the edges as it is now, instead of at home or at some newer theater. It was easy to imagine seeing it in 1930 as a first run picture, marveling at the sets and complaining about the clunky direction. But if you get the chance to see it, no matter the venue, don't hesitate. I promise the absurdity will not disappoint. 
The Egyptian doesn't look quite like this anymore, but close enough.

1 comment:

  1. The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...