Erotic Intertitle of the Week: Fool Frontal
Even though Theda Bara was a vamp rather than a vampire proper, a picture of her still adorns Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which meant I had to watch it. And indeed I’d always wanted to, lured by that famous pic of a wispily-robed Theda looming over a prone skeleton. As a child, that was probably my prime image of sex. Gifford’s line that silent movie vamps “sucked their men dry, but not of blood,” got my unformed mind working overtime, like a Victorian urchin up a dirty chimney. What did he mean? Had Theda Bara just sucked that man literally bone dry, so that all that remained was his calcium underpinnings? She must be the best vampire ever!
Her most famous movie (one of relatively few Bara vehicles to survive) isn’t the best movie ever, though, and of course she’s just a cold-hearted vixen who ruins men financially and emotionally and then moves on to her next conquest. Did I say “just”? Anyhow, the kohl-smeared seductress looks quite fetching in some shots and downright burly in others, suggesting that she needed a Pabst or Sternberg to style her photographically so she always looked her best. All too often the Theda Bara veneer crumbles away and we’re in no doubt that we ‘re looking at Theodosia Burr Goodman, a nice Jewish girl from Ohio, rather than the anagrammatic incarnation of Arab Death.
The plot is your basic seduction = ruination yarn, with the pleasing twist that the vamp gets away with it. Kipling’s titular poem barks at as from the intertitles, but there’s little doubt we’re meant to relish the depravity, such as it is.
Languid languishing between bouts of anguishing.