I wasn't quite sure how Stewart Granger would fit in when I started watching, but they worked him in all right, and he had plenty of screen time in his Roman outfits to keep me happy. And really, they certainly paired Granger up with some of the most lovely women in Hollywood! What a handsome couple he and Rita make!
The plot surprised me a bit. I guess I've gotten used to Rita playing the femme fatale types, and Salome and her dance of the seven veils for the head of John the Baptist just all fit together nicely with that image... only they changed that. In this version, she dances to save him! Knock me over with a feather, what?? That was unexpected. I was also expecting her to somehow get Stewart Granger's character killed... she's good at that, and he's good at picking the wrong women and getting killed because of it... nope. They both seem to live happily ever after, and together, no less! The entire ending rather shocked me. Not that I object to happy endings, quite the contrary, it just didn't fit with the story of Salome I was expecting. I mean, who thinks "good girl" when they think of Salome?
Granger's character was also a good guy, though that I was expecting. His Roman Commander Claudius has secretly converted to Christianity, so he helps slaves, John the Baptist, and whoever else he can, getting himself kicked out of the Roman army when he openly admits it to his boss (Pontius Pilate, played with strength and unexpected compassion -- at least when around Granger -- by Basil Sydney, who I last saw playing Captain Smollett in the 1950 version of Treasure Island, really like him!). That was one of the small things that bugged me though. Claudius is ordered to take ship for Rome, and he promptly goes AWOL instead, returning to Galilee. And nothing comes from this open defiance of his orders. It's only his friendship with Pilate that prevented him from being executed for treason in the first place, and no one follows to arrest him or anything?? And he's still looking awfully Roman in the last shot of the film, no hiding out by blending in with the natives. Too bad. I'd kind of like to see a few consequences from his desertion. But, of course, I daydream. This movie is not called "Claudius," it's called "Salome."
All in all, it was a diverting couple of hours, and definitely better than quite a few other movies in this genre, and it fits the season. I think I automatically start looking for these types of movies come Easter, as television stations used to run the gamut of Biblical epics this time of year.