Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg)

This is one of the most delightfully vulgar films I've ever seen. It's almost unbelievable that it was released in 1934, since it is filled with nudity, torture, deviant behavior, promiscuity, open sexual humor, S & M, double entendres, and oral fixations. It is an orgy of set design, full of twisted gargoyles, giant metal doors, lavish capes and coats, staircases that go on forever, and beds that swallow up entire rooms. It is German expressionism blown up a hundred times, masturbated on, then dragged to its death. It is slapstick comedy urinating on historical period recreation, with Sam Jaffe playing the most creepily repellent heir to the throne who ever lived. Mostly, it is Marlene Dietrich as a sexually ravenous dominatrix ice queen, lengthy voyeuristic closeups lingering obsessively on her cold but beautiful face. Did I mention you should see this? You should.

1 comment:

kristykay said...

This movie was insanely hilarious and awesome. My favorite parts were every time Dietrich opened her mouth, the creepy gargoyle statues that were everywhere in the castle, including peeking over the shoulders of guests at the dinner table, and the final scene, which shows Catherine the Great all smiles, holding the bridle of her horse. (Because, of course, legend has it that Catherine loved sex, and really loved sex with animals - the rumor is that she died while having sex with a horse because the harness that was holding the horse up broke.)

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