Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Long believed to be a "lost" film, The Show resurfaced in the mid-1970s, proving to be a real treasure trove for aficionados of director Tod Browning. Ostensibly based on Tenney Jackson's novel The Day of Souls, the film also owes a great deal to Ferenc Molnar's Liliom. John Gilbert stars as Cock Robin, the swaggering spieler of a Hungarian "freak show" known as the Palace of Illusions. The highlight of the show is a grotesque reenactment of Salome's dance of the seven veils, replete with the beheading of John the Baptist (played by Cock Robin). The actress playing Salome (also named Salome and played by Renee Adoree) is the "kept woman" of the troupe's leading man The Greek (Lionel Barrymore), but she's really in love with Cock Robin and despairs whenever the caddish "hero" betrays yet another wide-eyed maiden. Insane with jealousy, The Greek plots to kill Cock Robin by actually cutting his head off during a performance of "Salome." With the heroine's help, Cock Robin escapes, ultimately redeeming himself by posing as the long-lost son of a pathetic, senile blind man. He then returns to square accounts with The Greek, who in true Tod Browning tradition is hoist on his own murderous petard when he tries to kill Salome with a deadly gila monster.
decadence, freak-show, freaks