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Sunday, June 1, 2008

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932)

Returning to Paramount with a bang after five tough years on his own and four miserable years @ M-G-M, Cecil B. De Mille piled on the religiosity, sex, violence & ass’s milk in this QUO VADIS knock-off. Restored to Pre-Code debauch levels, Part One is a bit creaky with remarkably little plot, but Part Two is an orgy of perversity, much of it still jaw-dropping. Elissa Landi can’t do much with her Christian martyr role and Fredric March hasn’t the limbs to play Marcus Superbus (!) even with his odd lip rouge, but Claudette Colbert ’s Poppaea rides high with the perkiest breasts in Hollywood while Charles Laughton ’s Nero, in spite of limited screen time, remains indelible. Look sharp for John Carradine in a couple of bits while savoring Karl Struss ’s luminous lensing.

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