Salome continues theme of opposing Communist regimes

Salome (1953) was a variation on a similar theme or religious opposition to communism concentrating on Princess Salome of the Judean King Herod’s court. image courtesy of eMoviePoster.

Dr Kevin Brianton, Honorary Associate

La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Salome (1953) was a variation on a similar theme of religious opposition to communism concentrating on Princess Salome of the Judean King Herod’s court.  Herod was liked to Roman rulers in the opening titles and the screenwriter depicted him as one of their puppets.  The film opened with John the Baptist preaching to a small group of people that Herod’s kingdom was corrupt.

The had of the lord will fall upon the king and queen.  Be calm by friends, righteousness shall rise like a mighty river, truth shall be clear as crystal.  Repent.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good.  Relive the oppressed, seek righteousness for his love will be with you as a morning dew and you will blossom as a rose.[1]

One of Herod’s agents then sped away to warn the Queen that John the Baptist was preaching ‘sedition’.  The basic formula of the biblical epics had already been set.  The Romans were corrupt and powerful and were opposed by the righteous but apparently powerless Jews.  When John the Baptist was confronted by the Roman troops, he told his followers ‘to let your faith be your shield’ and then vented his rage at them.

The message of Salome was directed at those rulers who did not follow God’s laws and for the audience of the 1950s that could only mean the communist rulers.  Image courtesy of eMoviePoster.

Tyrants of Rome.  Those who live in hatred and spite shall vanish from the earth when Roman spears will be ground into dust.  The consumers will be consumed.  You will be destroyed.[2]

Further on he denounced Rome and its puppets:

For verily, I say unto you, the kingdom of heaven can be found here on earth if we live like the children of God and not like beasts of prey as those who rule you now.  People of Galilee, Herod is an alien king.  He is descended form a desert tribe of heathens.  He was not born in the faith of our fathers.  He makes a mockery of the Ten Commandments.  Rulers who do not observe the law of God can only bring disaster to the people.[3]

The final sentence was the exact point that John Foster Dulles would make in his Watertown speech.  Not only was communism morally wrong, but eventually it would lead its people to disaster.

When John the Baptist confronted Herod in Salome at his show trial, he continued his verbal assault on the Roman Judean kingdom.

HEROD:Then you would have another king in my place.
BAPTIST:One that would rule with goodness, justice and mercy.
MINISTER:You admit allegiance to someone other than his majesty.
BAPTIST:The one I acknowledge is above the kingdom on earth.
MINISTER:Mightier even than Caesar?
BAPTIST:He is the king of kings.  He makes all the Caesars in the heavens tremble.  He will raise the yoke form the oppressed, right all wrongs, bring a day of judgement upon all the evil ministers of the world… He is the messiah.[4]

Jesus was depicted as a political figure and his appearance meant political as well as religious freedom, as it made the physical and moral decline of Rome certain.  The soldier Claudius made this observation when he argued with the Judean Governor Pontius Pilate.

CLAUDIUS:Rome cannot go on as it has, ruling with a sword and a whip.  If we are to survive, we must recognise that a new force has come into the world.
PILATE:A new force?
CLAUDIUS:The religion of this prophet.  It will bring hope to the conquered, it will bring peace to all men by teaching all how to live in peach with his neighbours.  This is a faith that will march across the world and win them as Rome could only conquer.
PILATE:Caesar is the only faith for a Roman.[5]

As this was prior to the crucifixion, Claudius must be considered to be one of the greatest predictors of historical events of all time.  Pilate’s statement that ‘Caesar is the only faith for a Roman’ reflected the Kennan belief that communism was a religion, rather than a political philosophy.  If the film is read as a political allegory of the communists, it implied that communism was doomed.  The message of the film was directed at those rulers who did not follow God’s laws and for the audience of the 1950s that could only mean the communist rulers.  To maintain some semblance of historical accuracy, Herod was left cursed with the thought the he would die in agony

[1] Salome, (d) William Dietrele, (w) Harry Kleiner, Jerry Lasky Jnr.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Salome, op cit.

[4] Salome, op cit.

[5] Salome, op cit.

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