“Who Wants to Go to Hell With Madam Satan?”

The thing about vintage film is sorta like the thing about antiques: just because it’s super old doesn’t make it super good. Or, put another way, film is not like wine: it doesn’t get better just because no one has looked at it for a long time. In fact, sometimes no one has looked at it for a long time just because it sucks.

Case in point, I have yet to see this movie because I just heard about it today, but it sounds truly awful. Madam Satan was made in 1930 and was old Cecil B. DeMille’s big try at cashing in on the musical craze that had swept moviedom with the advent of talkies. An IMdb reviewer offers this assessment:
In 1928, movie magnet Cecil B. DeMille, usually associated with Paramount Studios, signed a three-picture contract with mighty MGM. The most exuberant result of this new association -- the others were DYNAMITE (1929) and THE SQUAW MAN (1931) -- was this bizarre, florid, highly unusual and very entertaining musical-comedy-soap opera which almost defies categorization in any other way than to simply say it is a ‘DeMille Picture.’

It was also the only musical he attempted (1930 was a year replete with singing stars enjoying -- or abusing -- the new sound technology) and perhaps that is a good thing, as the tunes here don't warble too well and are a bit of an embarrassment. Although the tale of marital infidelity which dominates the film's first half grows rather mawkish, DeMille awakes the audience in the second half by staging a naughty masquerade ball in a luxurious dirigible, no less, harbored high above New York City. Never one to let bad taste stand in his way, DeMille invites the viewer to wallow in Pre-Code purulence, before ending on a more moralistic note.
I mean, wow, right? Kay Johnson and Reginald Denny star in what The Madam Satan Page calls “two of the most bizarre hours in film history.”

Where do I sign?


John McFetridge said…
yeah, that's what the movies need, more "purulence." Lots more.
Yeah: you think maybe they didn't actually mean purulence there? But it rolls off the tongue, right? Wait. Gross. Strike that.
Clea Simon said…
wow...this sounds like what in my home we call the Andromeda Strain effect. In brief, one night when we still browsed for videos back in the video rental place, I remembered "AS" as a horrifying high-tech sci-fi movie. Well, that was in 1971. I was 10. We rented it and well, let's just say it didn't even have any pre-Code thrills.

Which all leads up to me probably not being able to convince anyone to join me for Mme. Satan, as good as it sounds.

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