Sodom (aka Sodom and Gomorrah): Aldrich’s Tacky Biblical Epos before Making What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Representing a low point in Robert Aldrich’s career, Sodom and Gomorrah (aka as The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah) is a silly, bombastic attempt–running time is two and half hours of preposterous plot–at a Biblical epos.

This Franco-Italian-American co-production was released just before What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, the macabre horror, in which Aldrich made a comeback, working with legendary starts Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Giorgio Prosperi and Hugo Butler’s screenplay revolves around the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which prosper due to their deposits of salt, mined by slaves. The citizens who have become wealthy by trading salt, live a decadent luxurious life, exploiting their slaves as servants and for violent mass entertainment.

Astorath (Stanley Baker), the Prince of Sodom, asks slave girl Tamar (Scilla Gabel) to carry a message to the king of the Elamites, with whom he plans to overthrow his sister, Bera, Queen of Sodom (Anouk Aimée).

Tamar is captured by a Sodomite patrol, and Queen Bera demands to know her co-conspirator. When Tamar refuses to inform, she and her two young sisters are killed.

Lot (Granger) leads his family and his pious tribe through the desert, hoping to find home for his people along the River Jordan.

As the Hebrews approach their destination, Lot meets the beautiful Ildith (Pier Angeli), assuming that she owned slave, but she tells him that she is also a slave.

Lot negotiates the use of the land with Queen Bera, promising her grain and defense should Sodom be attacked. She gives Lot Ildith, despite the latter’s wish to stay. Astorath soon turns his attentions to Lot’s daughter, Shuah (Rossana Podestà).

Ildith and Lot fall in love and plan to marry, while Shuah and Prince Astorath begin a secret affair. Lot’s other daughter, Maleb (Claudia Mori) and his lieutenant, Ishmael (Rik Battaglia) also plan a marriage.

Lot and Ildith’s wedding celebrations are interrupted by an Elamite attack. The Hebrew farmers and Sodomite soldiers fight, but they are nearly defeated by the fierce nomadic warriors.

As a last measure, Lot orders to break the dam that the Hebrews have built to be broken. He saves the twin cities and the Hebrews, but the camp and the crops are destroyed. However, the flood waters reveal that the Hebrew camp is also the site of a vast salt deposit. Lot believes that the Hebrews can move out of the wilderness and live among the Sodomites by selling salt.

Months later, the Sodomites and Hebrews both revere Lot and seek his judgment. Ishmael however, believes that Lot has succumbed to luxury and instead should raise a force to liberate Sodom’s mine slaves. Lot disagrees and Ishmael does not heed Lot and unsuccessfully tries to set the slaves free.

As the newly appointed minister of justice, Lot must sentence Ishmael. Lot kills the jealous Prince Astorath after being confronted by him. A remorseful Lot asks God for forgiveness and guidance.  Two angels inform him that God is displeased and will destroy the cities, but Lot pleads with them to spare the city

Many recaptured slaves are tortured to death on the wheel. As Queen Bera exclaims “But wait, the games have just begun,” Lot appears seeking ten righteous Sodomites.

Although he has God’s consent, Lot finds it impossible to persuade any Sodomite citizens to follow him, only the slaves are willing to accompany him. Even his own daughters, who believe Lot a hypocrite, at first refuse. Ildith, however, convinces them to leave, hoping that they will someday understand their father and his greatness as a leader. Shuah goes only grudgingly, telling Lot that she hopes to see him suffering as she is now that Astorath is dead.

After the Hebrews and Sodomite slaves leave, God assails Sodom with earthquakes and lightning. Queen Bera retreats with her slave Orphea to her palace, where they are killed under the pillars. The masses flee into the streets, crushed by collapsing towers

Despite Ildith’s  love for Lot, she cannot accept his God. Looking back at Sodom, she is turned by God into a pillar of salt just as the city is destroyed

Soaked in grief, Lot staggers off with the Hebrews, whose fate is to wander the deserts again.

The film features the last of Miklos Rozsa’s epic film scores. Rozsa, who replaced Dimitri Tiomkin, thought the film was tacky and inferior.

Cast

  • Stewart Granger as Lot
  • Anouk Aimée as Queen Bera
  • Pier Angeli as Ildith
  • Stanley Baker as Prince Astaroth
  • Rossana Podestà as Shuah
  • Rik Battaglia as Melchior
  • Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Ishmael
  • Scilla Gabel as Tamar
  • Anthony Steffen as The Captain (as Antonio de Teffi)
  • Gabriele Tinti as Lieutenant
  • Enzo Fiermonte as Eber
  • Daniele Vargas as Segur
  • Claudia Mori as Maleb
  • Feodor Chaliapin Jr. as Alabias
  • Mitsuko Takara as Orphea
  • Massimo Pietrobon as Isaac