Even Josef von Sternberg had his off days. Blonde Venus (1932), his fifth film with Marlene Dietrich, is drawn in Sternberg’s characteristic chiaroscuro, but nothing seems to be happening beneath the (admittedly elegant) surface. Dietrich is permitted her only sympathetic role—as a woman who leaves her husband (Herbert Marshall) because she thinks she’s no good for him—but this type of melodramatic pathos seems unsuited to Sternberg’s sensibilities. One unfortunate scene, with Dietrich singing “Hot Voodoo” dressed in an ape suit, has predicated several generations of supercilious camp. With Cary Grant and Sidney Toler.
1 hour 37 min • 2012