The interplay of sex and religion doesn’t feel fully explored, merely hinted at, so the shocking climax feels a bit out of the blue, but Miss Sadie Thompson works on a number of levels — Hayworth’s performance being the primary one.
The film was originally released in 3-D — quite the different kind of film than what gets shown in 3-D these days.
An ill-advised Technicolor biblical (sort-of) epic, Salome is also a newcomer to DVD. Hayworth stars as the titular daughter of King Herod and Queen Herodias, but that’s about as close as the film sticks to the biblical story, adding all sorts of dubious story elements and culminating in a finale that’s the direct opposite of the Bible.
Although the costumes are fine, much of the production feels like it was created on the cheap, and the proceedings — Salome gets banished from Rome, falls in love with a Roman soldier (Stewart Granger), tries to save John the Baptist (an over-the-top Alan Badel) — feel interminably dull.
Hayworth’s climactic “Dance of the Seven Veils” is a demanding and engaging number and it’s enjoyable to see Charles Laughton camp it up as King Herod, but Hayworth’s beauty, lovingly framed in a number of close-ups by director William Dieterle, isn’t enough to redeem this one.
Martin Scorsese, Baz Luhrmann and Patricia Clarkson all lend introductions to the set, with Scorsese reminiscing about Gilda, Luhrmann talking about Cover Girl and Gilda, and Clarkson introducing Tonight and Every Night and Miss Sadie Thompson. Apparently no one had anything good to say about Salome. I’m not surprised. Clarkson’s entries are painfully pre-written and seem to be read off cue cards, but Scorsese and Luhrmann lend infectious passion to their thoughts. A commentary track from Richard Schickel is also included for Gilda, along with trailers for each of the films.
The Films of Rita Hayworth is an impressive set, with each Film Foundation-supervised transfer looking marvelous, and three previously unavailable classic films now on DVD.