This Pride Month we are exploring some of the many projects of the distinguished and eclectic Cesar Romero. Best known for his comic villainy on the ‘60s television version of Batman, Romero opened up about his homosexuality toward the end of his life. His many credits include such horror offerings as Two on a Guillotine, Mortuary Academy and Night Gallery.
The last collaboration between director Josef Von Sternberg and his grand muse Marlene Dietrich, 1935’s The Devil is a Woman is full of visual flourishes that should appeal to fans of such stylistic masters as Dario Argento, Ken Russell and Guillermo Del Toro. From freight trains stranded in avalanche beds to the majestic hair pieces that Dietrich sports in a variety of scenes, this film is a kaleidoscopic delight…even though it was filmed in black and white.
Reportedly Dietrich’s favorite among her many films, this tale recounts the adventures of Concha Perez (Dietrich), an unrepentant schemer who destroys the finances and the emotional health of the honored Captain Costelar (old school terror stalwart Lionel Atwill). Costelar’s misadventures with Perez are detailed via flashback remembrances as he warns the bold Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero) to avoid her charms. Naturally, Galvan can’t resist this wicked enchantress and soon finds himself upon the receiving end of her brutal capriciousness.
Here Romero, the only gay man (thus far) in the DC universe to play the Joker, brings his typical smooth and roguish charm to the role of Galvan. But despite his magazine slickness, he also resonates with a boldness that makes the slightly criminal nature of his character truly believable as well. (Indeed, this project is doubly interesting to the gay community due to Dietrich’s own love of androgyny and oft chronicled lesbian relationships.)
Interestingly, while Romero, Dietrich and Atwill all went on to many other projects, Sternberg, despite his genuine genius, was not so lucky. His directing credits after Devil were few and he was even fired from Macao, his last high profile project, due to his onset fussiness and an incoherent vision for the project.
Thankfully, due to home media and the internet, we will always have Concha and Galvin and Spain.
Until the next time…SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!