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(aka "Intrigues en Orient" )

 

directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1930

 

A man is bewitched by the mysterious Madam Satan he meets at a lavish masquerade ball. Does this mean the end of his marriage to the demure spouse he left at home? Not likely, because the temptress is really his wife in disguise! Cecil B. DeMille directs this pre-Code musical extravaganza about a wife who teaches her errant husband a lesson in love. The risqué plot is a hoot, but what really makes this film is its can-you-believe-it production values: the ball, held on a giant dirigible, features a balletic salute to electricity, complete with human spark plugs -- and a party-ending bolt of lightning that renders the airship flightless, sending the revellers leaping for their lives. (Amazingly, the actors do their own stunts.) Happy landings!

****

Producer-director Cecil B. DeMille must have felt he was in hell when he saw the box office receipts for Madame Satan (1930), an unpopular (at the time) hybrid of musical and romantic melodrama. Yet even though this strange tale of a straying husband who learns the error of his ways when his wife dons a glamorous disguise and seduces him just before a climactic dirigible crash seemed wildly uneven, fans today appreciate the film for its ironic, Pre-Code humor and brazen attempt to provide something for everyone.

DeMille had left the studio with which he would be associated most of his life, Paramount, in 1929 in search of a better financial arrangement and more control over his work. The result was a three-picture deal with MGM that had started promisingly enough with the action hit Dynamite (1929), his first all-talking film. To take advantage of the new medium, studio head Louis B. Mayer urged him to tackle a musical, with Madame Satan as the result.

The story was pure DeMille, harking back to such earlier hits as Old Wives for New (1918) and Don't Change Your Husband (1919), silent hits that combined risqué plots about the battle of the sexes with moralistic endings that usually saw husband and wife reunited after at least flirting with infidelity. Marital infidelity was nothing new to DeMille. The writer of many of his films, including his silent sex comedies and Madame Satan, was also his longtime mistress, Jeanie Macpherson, who would remain on his payroll until her death in 1946.

Excerpt of review from TCM located HERE

4 Posters and an unrelated comic!

Theatrical Release: September 30th, 1930

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:55:28
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.67 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 1.0 (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: November 9th, 2010
Keep Case

Chapters 29

 

Comments

What starts out as being pretty mundane in the first half - goes off-the-scale bizarre in the second half. Wow - a kind of lavish, pre-code, 1930's 'Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'-esque musical adventure inside a... dirigible that gets struck by lightning! From gorgeous Art Deco sets to expensive effects and plenty of costumed dancers (the production costs over 1 million dollars!) - Madam Satan is not a film you are likely to forget. Unfortunately the writing and comedy are less cohesive - only adding a further element of head-scratching disaster-epic 'What the heck?'-isms.

It's dual-layered and progressive in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and looks acceptable with plenty of minor speckles and light scratches predictable considering the age. This is labeled under the Warner's new "Re-mastered Edition" marquee and I only found one or two prominent instances showing damage (see last capture). Contrast is quite good and overall it's a pleasant surprise to see a film this old looking this strong. The screen captures should give you an idea of how it appears visually.

Such an early studio talkie it has some weakness in this area - there were reportedly sound stages from three different film companies as it was such a new concept. It has its share of limitations and is... unremarkable to say the least. There are, unfortunately, no subtitles offered - and no supplements either - no trailer and one lone menu screen.

Madam Satan (what a cool name) runs like a DeMille stream of consciousness and after 80-years has strangely surfaced hints at homosexuality with a scene of two men sharing a shower (albeit clothed) , another sequence with parachuting into, what appears to be, an all-male bathhouse - and although 'gay' had a different context in 1930 - the newspaper in the film describes the party as such (see capture below) - Hey, we can read in anything we want. Why not? - anything goes here! No, No, it's more fun than anything else with each costume number trying to top the previous. Sure, it's wacky - but in an amusing code-free sexier-than-you'd-think way. Once onboard the blimp - I really enjoyed the festivities. I hope I go to a party like this one day.  

  - Gary Tooze

 



 

DVD Menu
 

 


Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 


 

 


 

 


 


"Who wants to go to hell with Madam Satan!"

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


  Damage

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

 




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