03/15/2022 08:54

Film: Salomé

Year: 1922

Director: Charles Bryant

Writers: Alla Nazimova and Natacha Rambova

Starring: Alla Nazimova, Nigel De Brulier and Mitchell Lewis



This is a movie that I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about until I was looking for horror movies from 1922. While watching this I was picking up some things and when I checked the trivia, it ended up confirming some of them which was interesting. I was intrigued more to see it is from a play by Oscar Wilde as well. The synopsis is Salome (Alla Nazimova), the daughter of Herodias (Rose Dione), seduces her stepfather/uncle Herod (Mitchell Lewis), governor of Judea, with a salacious dance. In return, he promises her whatever she wants.

For this movie, we start with some text. This being a silent film, it is setting the stage. The text is saying profound was the moral darkness that enveloped the world which the star of Bethlehem arose. I didn’t read the synopsis coming in, but this made me think of Jesus. This comes back up later in the movie as well. From there we learn about the world converging in Judea at the court of Herod. He is the tetrarch, which I looked up and is a governor of sorts. Part of the text also says about Rome is rotting, but still trampling the world.

Where I’ll shift next is that Herod isn’t a nice guy. He killed his brother and married his wife, Herodias. He lusts over his niece, our title character of Salome. In the dungeon is a prophet, Jokaanan (Nigel De Brulier). There is a great feast going on and Herod keeps staring at Salome. Herodias notices and keeps scolding him. He gaslights and denies what she is claiming.

Salome leaves the feast. She is followed by the captain of the guard, Narraboth (Earl Schenck). What I found interesting is that he is credited as a Syrian prince that was forced into serving in this position. He is in love with Salome, but she does not reciprocate these feelings. While they’re out, the dungeon is close. She hears Jokaanan and wants to see him. She is denied though. They will do whatever she asks, but this they cannot. She makes a promise to Narraboth which gets what she wants. The prophet is released.

She at once falls in love with him. He denies her though. They do kiss, but he decides to return to his cell. Herod calls for Salome to return to the feast. He also begs her to take a drink or a bite of different things, allowing him to taste her lips. When she refuses, he asks her to dance for him. She doesn’t want to, but also sees an opportunity like the synopsis alludes to.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie. As I said earlier, I didn’t realize that this movie was telling the tale of John the Baptist. I saw that this was a take on a play from Oscar Wilde and that when looking this up, there are quite a few adaptations of this story. Since I didn’t read the synopsis ahead of time or know the story about this figure, I didn’t put it together until the second half of the movie. I did know that he was executed, that was about it.

With that out of the way, I wanted to delve into the character of Salome and in turn, Nazimova who played her. While prepping to write this review, I saw that Nazimova is an uncredited director, helped write the script and was a producer. From the trivia I was reading, she wanted to ensure this got made and even financed it. This was a failure, both domestic and overseas which left her broke. I thought that Nazimova was good as our lead here. Being that it is a silent film, there isn’t a lot to go off. I think that she conveys the disdain that she has toward men in her life. Her being upset with being shunned by Jokaanan and the rage for that to happen. I’ll give credit to her for sure.

Now that I’ve fleshed out her performance, where I want to go then would be the character, Salome. She is supposed to be young here. She doesn’t like the men around her as she knows that they want her, which includes her stepfather/uncle Herod and the captain of the guards, Narraboth. She doesn’t want them. For Herod it makes sense. For the latter, I’m guessing it could be that he’s too ‘available’. Jokaanan isn’t interested. She finds him beautiful and having a sweet voice. He is a man of God though. He spurns the lusts of the flesh for his faith. What I find even more interesting is that Salome is irate that he is shunning her. She is immature and entitled. We see that for what she is pushing to do when he won’t love her. She does know how use her femininity as a weapon and I can appreciate that.

There isn’t a lot to the story here, so I’ll go to the acting. I’ve already said what I thought about Nazimova. I thought that Brulier was solid as Jokaanan. Lewis is good as the creepy Herod. We can see him lusting over his niece/stepdaughter. What makes it worse is so can her mother, Herodias. Dione works there as that character. It is funny that she is younger than Nazimova, who is playing her daughter here. With the make-up and how they’re framed, it doesn’t seem like it. Aside from that, the rest of the cast is fine for rounding this out for what is needed.

The last things to go into would be the cinematography, effects and the soundtrack. For the former, I’d say it is fine. We are in early in the history of cinema, so they’re not doing a lot here. This is staged as a play, which it is based. I thought that worked. As for the effects, we don’t get a lot here. I think the make-up works. We get this cool effect where there is this face on the moon. I liked what they did to superimpose it. I’ll then talk about the soundtrack. What can be tricky is that I don’t know what should be synced here. I did check out two versions on YouTube. Both had different music but worked for what we needed. This is light on the horror elements and it is the soundtrack that does give it that vibe.

In conclusion, this is an interesting take on a play from Wilde and story from the bible. It is sad to hear everything that Nazimova put into making this work for it to flop with audiences. I thought that the story was solid enough. The acting was good with her being the bright spot. Cinematography is solid with what effects we get being that way as well and the soundtracks I found coupled with it help to give it an interesting atmosphere. Not a great movie, but I enjoyed my time with it. Part of it could be it has a shorter runtime. To re-iterate, this movie is a silent film so keep that in mind. I’d say that this is an above average for me.


My Rating: 7 out of 10