Salome's Last Dance

The conceit of Ken Russell's version of Oscar Wilde's Salome is that Wilde's favorite London brothel is staging a version just for him (Nickolas Grace) in 1892, with his male lover Bosie (Douglas Hodge) playing John the Baptist and the brothel keeper (Stratford Johns) Herod. (Glenda Jackson plays Herodias, Imogen Millais-Scott is the rather unexciting Salome, and Russell himself turns up in an uncredited cameo as a photographer who helps with the sound effects.) Perhaps the biggest problem with this rather static (if mainly—and, for Russell, uncharacteristically—straightforward) version of the play is that it tries too visibly to be outre, what with Jewish midgets cavorting, one character belching or farting whenever the action flags, and everyone else straining hard to be lewd and decadent. (In that department, as well as lushness, the unfortunately unexported Day-Glo version of the play by Italian avant-garde director Carmelo Bene in the 70s makes Russell's efforts look even more feeble.) The tacky score, which runs the gamut from Schubert to Satie to Hollywood schmaltz, seems emblematic of the overall uncertainty.

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