Madam Satan (1930)

Genres - Action, Drama, Musical, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Disaster Film  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Cecil B. DeMille tried to cover a few too many bases in Madame Satan, with his reach definitely exceeding his (considerable) grasp -- but that grasp was still strong enough to produce a film quite unlike any other. Chaotic and messy, this mélange of styles -- a musical comedy disaster romance epic, if you will -- never approaches coherence, but the second half of the film is fascinating. Of course, to get there one has to go through an awkward and often trying first half, during which song cues are not really set up and the dialogue scenes are played with little sense of style or humor. Once the film gets to the bizarre masquerade ball on the dirigible, however, things pick up; the latter half may not always convince as drama, but it's terrific entertainment. Visually, it's a sheer delight, with some truly incredible costumes and DeMille's practiced hand at crowd control very evident. The "Ballet Electrique" is the strange musical highlight, but Kay Johnson's "Meet Madame" is also noteworthy. The destruction of the dirigible is very well done, with special effects that stand up reasonably well today, and which builds very successfully to a satisfying conclusion. In addition, the humor that is missing (or unintentional) in the first half finds flower in the second, with some wry asides from Roland Young scoring particularly well. Ridiculous and campy at times, Madame Satan is still a one-of-a-kind experience.