Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IOU: Madam Satan (1930)

Person I owe: Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!. I owe Jonas more than just this movie. I owe him a lot. He has sent me lots of great early talkies and silent films (more early talkies because that's his specialty). It's been hard to find the time to watch all those wonderful treasures. Jonas sent me a copy of Madam Satan (1930) long before Warner Archive made it available on DVD. And I'm ashamed that I only got to it now. What a fantastic film. Thank you Jonas!

Review: Madam Satan (1930) is one of the most entertaining Pre-Code movies I have ever seen.  It's both fun and bizarre. It stars Kay Johnson as Angela Brooks, the wife of Bob Brooks (Reginald Denny). Bob and his best friend Jimmy (Roland Young) go out regularly to paint the town red. Bob thinks that Angela is just blah now that she's his wife. And it turns out Bob is cheating on Angela with an entertainer named Trixie (Lillian Roth). While the two guys try to hide the affair in various ineffective ways, Angela is on to their schemes and wants to see what is going on for herself. It seems like Trixie's got her feline claws in deep with Bob and we think that Angela's lost him forever. That is, until Angela declares war!  The first 50 minutes of the film deal with the situation between the four characters. The other 1 hour and 10 minutes consists of a wild trip on a Zeppelin complete with a futuristic operetta (as Jonas calls it), crazy costumes that would shock and entice Lady Gaga and a grand finale that only a director like Cecil B. Demille could deliver.

This movie is so much fun to watch. The social drama at the beginning is full of fun jokes and physical humor. But once you hit that 50 minute mark, you are wowed by all the crazy Zeppelin shenanigans. You'll find yourself with your jaw to the floor, one hand on your head and one hand over  your mouth. It's that crazy. Like so many Pre-Codes, this film is full of sexual innuendos and experimentations of all sorts. What makes this film different to me is that I love the message. There are many Pre-Codes in which the ending completely undoes the original boundary-pushing message. In Madam Satan, we learn that men should appreciate their women. Because love, caring and intelligence don't have to stifle the carnal pleasures of a romantic relationship. And floozies don't always win in the end. I feel like in this day and time floozies seem to win because of their aggressiveness and charm. What ever happened to the value of self-respect? You want to be like Angela and NOT Trixie. And I like that message. Yes I do indeed.

If you haven't seen this movie, WATCH IT NOW! Don't wait as long as I did. Order a copy for yourself and several for your friends. If my review doesn't convince you, here are some screen caps for your viewing pleasure.

Angela is trapped like that cagged bird.

What do two drunk men do? Take a shower in their suits in the middle of a bedroom. Yeah.

Lillian Roth is the villain but her smile is too infectious for you to complete hate her.

Roland Young has some great expressions of confusion and fear in the film.

You are invited!


Lady Gaga would totally rip this off for one of her music videos.

One of the many WTF moments.

At this point I was jumping up and down in my seat cheering. Go Madam Satan!


  1. Brilliant! Rumor has it many songs were cut from this "musical". I'm not so sure about that considering the running time of the movie. A movie with cut musical numbers usually clocks in at some 60 minutes. With a running time of a whopping 116 minutes my firm belief is that not much could have been cut. However, most of the masquerade was originally filmed in color, but something apparently went wrong in post production and no color prints was ever made. It surely is an unusual film but still quite fabulous if you ask me. Lillian Roth may be the villain in the movie but it doesn't prevent her from being hot as hell, no pun intended :)

  2. Thanks for this great post! I second your opinion - see this movie! The Zeppelin Ballet is eye-poppingly unbelievable, and DeMille pushes the innuendo to the limit. Roth, in spite of being the 'other' woman, is charming & sexy; she really steals the film. I love the stills you posted of the wild costumes in this movie; it's really a Pre-code time capsule.

  3. Naturally I am going to love any movie with a zeppelin. But Madame Satan has so much more to offer. The whole finale is out of this world. And I am convinced that Gaga has watched this film multiple times!


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