Sodom and Gomorrah (1962)

“Evil? How strange you are… Where I come from, nothing is evil. Everything that gives pleasure is good!”

Synopsis:
Lot (Stewart Granger) leads a group of nomadic Hebrews into the land of Sodom — ruled by a cruel queen (Anouk Aimee) and her brother (Stanley Baker) — and soon takes a former slave (Pier Angeli) as his wife. But will he and his people (including his two grown daughters) help tame the Sodomites, or will their hedonistic new homeland be a corrupting influence?

Genres:

Review:
Peary presumably lists this big-budget Biblical epic in the back of his GFTFF due to Robert Aldrich being at the helm — though he could also simply be promoting it for its potential camp value. Regardless, it’s a pretty over-ripe and simplistic affair, with villainy (personified by the sexually deviant Aimee and Baker) pitted against nobility (silver-haired Granger and his “reformed” wife) in a battle for morality. There’s very little to fill the storyline and screen other than lengthy battle scenes, colorful costumes, and plenty of extras. The most famous element of Lot’s grim story takes place within the last few minutes, and is reasonably well handled, though not worth the slog until then.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Impressive big budget sets
  • Miklos Rozsa’s majestic score

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one.

Links:

One Response to “Sodom and Gomorrah (1962)”

  1. A once-must, as an all-around ‘good show’, for the performances and for Aldrich’s direction.

    In Christopher Durang’s hilarious play, ‘Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You’, there is a Q&A sequence – in which Sister Mary, holding index cards, answers questions ‘written by’ audience members. She reads from one card: “What exactly happened in Sodom?” Disturbed by the effrontery of such a question, Sister Mary looks directly into the audience and asks, “Who asked me this?”

    The ‘writer’ of the question probably expected to hear all kinds of vile and obscene activities described. Those who expect the same from Aldrich’s film will be disappointed. Whatever was most evil in Sodom is only hinted at in his film. There’s incest, lesbianism, sex with multiple partners… all like whispers. Beyond that, the film is rather – well… clean, really. …Oh, right – there’s a bit of sadism.

    It’s not even camp. There are those who say Anouk Aimee’s performance is over-the-top but it isn’t. As is the case with other Aldrich movies with lesbian characters (‘The Killing of Sister George’, ‘The Legend of Lylah Clare’), Aldrich takes such women very seriously and without ‘male commentary’.

    Biblical films are now (it seems) completely a thing of the past – the last real one being Scorsese’s ambitious ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. Such films fall into a few categories. There are those that are *so* ‘reverential’ that they can hardly breathe and border on being boring. Then there’s ‘The 10 Commandments’ – which seems to be in a camp class all by itself. And Nicholas Ray’s ‘The King of Kings’ (for me, the best of the biblical movies) – which seems to respect the Christ story while simultaneously emphasizing a humanitarian angle.

    And then there’s ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ – which is less a biblical tale (although things get very spiritual near the end – well, somewhat) than a story about power and control.

    As such, Aldrich is very pragmatic and straightforward with the material. I think I had only seen the film once before – years ago – and I’m sure it was a cut version. (The film seems to exist at a few different lengths.) This rewatch was of the complete, 155-minute print – and I found the experience compulsively watchable throughout. Maybe I just got caught up in all of the power play – but the script seems to move along in a progressively interesting way.

    Of particular note midway is the extended (initial) battle sequence, which is staged marvelously. But, frankly, I didn’t sense any lulls as events unraveled.

    This Aldrich film now seems under-seen these days. That’s a bit of a shame. The relationships are intelligently delineated, the dialogue is a lot better than in most biblical films, and it builds to a truly memorable (almost spine-tingling) conclusion.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.