SODOM AND GOMORRAH—two of our favorite towns: party-party-party, leaving Salt Lake City a distant third. An Italian-Anglo epic from 1963, directed by the iconoclastic Robert Aldrich in furnace conditions over a six-month period in Morocco. He fired assistant director Sergio Leone for “loafing”, sued in Italian court (did someone say ‘nightmare’?) over editing, and put as much of producer Joseph E. Levine’s $6,000,000 onscreen as he could manage in 154 minutes of ‘dramatically improved’ Bible-fearing.
There is nasty showcasing of vice and torture, debauchery and generalized anti-social behavior from the denizens of the fabled twin cities of badness. The upright Hebrews are led by Lot (same old story), better known as Stewart Granger, whose mane of hair is shock-waved for noble effect. Stanley Baker has fun as Prince Astaroth (Prince of Sodom sounds suspiciously like a gay porn film ), while Sapphic tendencies are displayed by his evil Queen Bera (Anouk Aimee looking suitably European enough to qualify as decadent for audiences in the Bible Belt). God (played by lightning and loud sound effects) steps in at the finale to blast the dens of iniquity to little bitty piles of rubble, with enough buildings collapsing on panicked crowds to please the average ten-year old.
Some typically exotic flourish in the score from Miklos Rozsa, the undisputed master maestro of Spectacle Scoring, B.C. Division. Sets and costumes are okay, but the movie is too long, too often reminiscent of low-grade ‘Maciste’ pix in its florid dialogue and dubbed sound. There’s a big battle with a gazillion horses that features fire, flood and slingshot rocks, but aside from some laffs for camp followers viewers expecting more will be sorely tested. *
I did enjoy the lust-crazed extras who continued to make out madly even when the earthquake was underway and stuff is falling everywhere—that is focus. The big torture-wheel is likewise impressive, in a save-the-piety-and-admit-you’re-curious-about-this-sick-stuff way.
With Pier Angeli (lady Lot), Rossana Podesta (demoted from Helen of Troy, seven years earlier), Rik Battaglia, Scilla Gable and Mitsuko Takara, as the sultry somewhere-from-Asia slave-girl playtoy for the Queen (Silk Road already operating?).
- * Funny anecdote from Aldrich about the scoring: “I wanted Dimitri Tiomkin to do the music score. Well, they didn’t want to spend the money and who needs an American composer, etc. But I kept arguing that Tiomkin would be great and finally I wore them down. Tiomkin was signed up and he charged them a fortune! He came over to Rome to look at the picture and he sits down in the cutting room. We get down to the last reel and I could sense he wasn’t totally happy and I came up to him near the end and he said, ‘I don’t buy it.’ I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘I don’t buy the concept.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t buy the concept? What don’t you like?’ He said, ‘I don’t believe she turned to salt.’ I just sat there and dropped my head. Finally I got up, put on my coat, and started out of the room. He said, ‘Where are you going? What can I do? What can I say? I can’t do anything I don’t believe in.’ I asked him, ‘What the hell would you have me do? Re-shoot it, re-write, the Bible? You don’t buy the concept! Now how in hell am I going to combat that?’ “