USA Today - 01/25/1992
"...This silent Erich Von Stroheim extravaganza is a treat..."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/20/2003
Description by OLDIES.com:
Notorious womanizer Count Wladyslaw Sergius Karamzin (Erich Von Stroheim) rents a magnificent villa in Monte Carlo with his two female "cousins." The decadent trio share the lavish lifestyle available only to fabulously wealthy aristocrats. Beneath the veneer of respectability lurks an ugly secret - the trio are flat broke and finance their sumptuous existence through counterfeiting and the funds the Count is able to glean from the upperclass wives he coldly and very successfully seduces. Learning that the American ambassador is arriving for a visit, Karamzin schemes to make the politician's beautiful wife his next victim. Bored and gullible, Mrs. Hughes is the perfect "subject" for the Count's attentions, but winds up with much more than the adventure she seeks - unleashing disasterous consequences.
Exuding immorality, the monocled Erich Von Stroheim gives a stellar performance in Foolish Wives, which he also directed and wrote. Von Stroheim's pointed critique skewers both American dull-wittedness and European Old World decadence. Billed as the "First Million Dollar Movie," this powerful silent classic still shocks today.
Erich von Stroheim's psychologically penetrating and visually gorgeous study of "innocent Americans" abroad, and their inability to understand the longstanding rules of behavior followed by their sophisticated European counterparts. An American diplomat and his wife journey to Monte Carlo, where he proceeds to bury himself in work. His wife, bored and upset with her husband's inattentiveness, and longing to experience the Continental nightlife, gradually succumbs to the flirtations of an elegant and charming "Count" -- who, in actuality, is merely a Russian military officer out to seduce her. As events come tumbling to a disastrous conclusion, the woman learns a valuable lesson about the meaning of true nobility, and the difference between appearance and reality.
"Foolish Wives" furthered Erich von Stroheim's reputation as a profligate director, who squandered the studio's money; the film cost $1,103,736.38, making it the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Von Stroheim insisted on literally recreating the Monte Carlo atmosphere, with lavish and faithful sets, and 1500 extras -- an insistence that made for a truly breathtaking visual experience. Its American release, according to Variety, ran for 180 minutes, but a print distributed in Latin America had a running time of 6 hours, 48 minutes. In addition, von Stroheim's sophistication about sexual matters came across as sordid to Americans, who were less open about the subject that their European counterparts.
Kino Video's print was remastered from a 35mm archive print that was restored in 1972 by Professor Arthur Lennig of State University of New York at Albany and the American Film Institute. It features an original piano score by Steve Sterner.
The First "Million Dollar Picture"
Movie Lover: Jeremy Weinstein from
Walnut Creek, CA US -- January, 24, 2009
A masterpiece (of film and irony- a movie about a fake Count directed by a genius who was later discovered to himself be a fake Count). The image quality of this DVD is fine, of the AFI film restoration as the Kino version, but is somewhat spoiled because it is a silent run at sound speed (usually Alpha takes better care with silents, so this is a double shame; the notorious scene of the evil Count looking the counterfeiter's retarded daughter up and down and then creepily licking his lips just doesn't have the same impact in fast-motion) and accompanied by different, annoyingly irrelevant music. I would have preferred a different, even if damaged, print at silent speed. This movie was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2008; a fictionalized "making of" was the subject of a Young Indiana Jones episode. The DVD picture quality is fine enough, though, and it's still a great movie.
Eric The Evil
Movie Lover: Patrick from
Brick, NJ -- May, 18, 2005
Eric Von Stroheim is the perfect villain in this movie. He is so despicable that you can hear the audiences of 1921 hiss when he comes on camera. There is no redeeming virtue in the character he plays.
He set the stage for all movie villains to come. Darth Vader looks tame by comparison.
Great Silent Film From Von Stroheim!
Movie Lover: Wayne S from
Knoxville, TN US -- July, 5, 2004
Few Silent films hold up to the modern audience -- but this one does! Great film about a rich Grifter family that will do anything to roll in the bucks. Great gambling sequences and good direction by Actor/Director Von Stroheim. Film is very entertaining and has a twist ending.
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