Von Stroheim's Greed

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stroszeck
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#1 Post by stroszeck » Thu Oct 06, 2005 1:22 pm

For all those fans, diehard or otherwise, can we unite and start bumrushing e-mails out to the company which owns the rights to the original cut of GREED so they can finally release it on DVD?

Last year we got "ICE STATION ZEBRA" and "IVANHOE" among other mediocre releases.

And those two from the same company that owns undoubtedly one of the most important/influential movies made by one of the original greats of silent films.

I do not want to live in a world where Von Stroheim has been forgotten but the likes of Cecil B Demille are getting the Criterion treatments. (And yes, that goes for DW Griffith as well......sort of. I'm just mad!)

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#2 Post by unclehulot » Thu Oct 06, 2005 2:18 pm

The "original" cut??! Sheesh, if ANYONE had that, it would be news for sure. I assume you mean the Rick Schmidlin "reconstruction".

the good news is, the transfer is probably prepared, including both the Schmidlin version and the previous version without the stills, and WB is certainly trying to release as much as possible before some HD system starts to fracture the market. The bad news is.... not enough folks voted for it when they had the chance. I'm sure it will be out some time.

Don't blame Criterion for it though. Yeah, "King of Kings"....whatever, at least they put SOME silent material out..... and a few piggyback items (Ozu, Lubitsch, Clair). If you want to bitch at Criterion, ask them why they passed on "Master of the House" and where that damned Eisenstein set is!

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#3 Post by godardslave » Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:46 pm

i would imagine most of us here voted for greed in the warner poll.

I think it did quite well, it came in 8th or 9th or something, but obviously not quite enough to make the top 5. :?

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#4 Post by tryavna » Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:48 pm

As I recall, Greed just barely missed making the final cut by only a few dozen votes, and it was far ahead of the rest of the pack that didn't make it.

So it's not a matter of people not voting for it at all.... In fact, all signs indicate that it would do reasonably well for a silent film.

Which reminds me, where are all the silent films that Warner owns the rights to? If masterpieces like Greed don't deserve the 3-disc treatment and The Big Parade and/or The Crowd the 2-disc treatment, then what's the point of putting special editions together anyway?

There are two existing versions of Greed: the 140-minute cut released by MGM in 1924 and 239-minute "reconstruction" done in 1999. The reconstruction uses numerous still photos (a la portions of Lost Horizon) to give a sense of Stroheim's intended narrative.

Both versions have pros and cons. The reconstructed version provides a clearer picture of what the film should have looked like, but all those still images can become rather wearisome after a while. Despite its mangled final status, the original theatrical version still works as a film. Hopefully, when Warner finally gets around to releasing this to DVD (when, oh when!?), they will release both versions.

Nothing of either Stroheim's 42-reel or 24-reel cut remains.

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#5 Post by ltfontaine » Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:59 pm

The "original" cut??! Sheesh, if ANYONE had that, it would be news for sure. I assume you mean the Rick Schmidlin "reconstruction".
I admire what Schmidlin and company accomplished with their version of "Greed" and expect that it will surface someday on DVD. It's hard to regard even the "reconstructed" version, however, as anything more than a fragment of the original film. One can't help watch it with an admiration that is, at best, bittersweet.

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#6 Post by zedz » Thu Oct 06, 2005 5:09 pm

ltfontaine wrote:I admire what Schmidlin and company accomplished with their version of "Greed" and expect that it will surface someday on DVD. It's hard to regard even the "reconstructed" version, however, as anything more than a fragment of the original film. One can't help watch it with an admiration that is, at best, bittersweet.
Indeed. There's so much footage missing from the reconstruction that it can be a bit of a chore to sit through. It's more like somebody making a meticulous argument for Greed as a supreme masterpiece than a masterpiece in its own right. The argument is, however, completely convincing.

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#7 Post by denti alligator » Thu Oct 06, 2005 7:49 pm

So what do we do?
ask them why they passed on "Master of the House"
Huh, what's the story on this one? "Passed on". .. when...?

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#8 Post by unclehulot » Fri Oct 07, 2005 12:07 am

denti alligator wrote:So what do we do?
ask them why they passed on "Master of the House"
Huh, what's the story on this one? "Passed on". .. when...?
Criterion currently holds the rights to issue "Master of the House", went some distance to work with folks on print materials for a release, and then dropped the idea, at least for the time being.

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#9 Post by FilmFanSea » Fri Oct 07, 2005 12:40 am

I'm disappointed that WHV hasn't done much with their TCM Archives imprint. In the two years since its launch, we've only had three releases (the Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, and Greta Garbo Silents box sets).

Of the 14 losing titles in DVD Decision 2003, all but 5 (The Good Earth, The Actress, Executive Suite, I'll Cry Tomorrow, and Somebody Up There Likes Me) have since been released. Of the 15 losing titles in DD 2004, only two (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang and Kansas City Bomber---which finished dead last) have been released thus far.

As stated above, Greed finished a very respectable 9th (out of 20) in the 2004 contest. I'm hopeful that we'll finally see it in 2006, but it's hard to tell.

In the meantime--if you haven't seen them already--I would highly recommend Kino's releases of Stroheim's* Foolish Wives and Queen Kelly (I've yet to see Blind Husbands) to tide you over.


* There doesn't seem to be much agreement on whether to refer to the director as "von Stroheim" or "Stroheim"---same with Josef von Sternberg. I've followed Jonathan Rosenbaum's lead by dropping the "von" in both cases.

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#10 Post by stroszeck » Fri Jan 20, 2006 5:10 pm

As I have already described in the Warner Discussion, apparently someone is messing with the votes. Greed is BEHIND Letty Lynton, a pretty mediocre movie that would NEVER EVER hit anyone's top 100 or even 500 movies of ALL TIME.

GREED is a masterwork. We've all been dying for years for this one to make it onto the DVD format in the 4 hour uncut version.

We've lost the 10 hour original negative to the film. Now, are we gonna really let Greed, the masterpiece of the silent era, slip through the cracks? Last time it was Ivanhoe and Ice Station Zebra....

Is Letty Lynton (or any other movie on the TCM site) close enough to touch Greed, that they should be released? I for one do not think so.

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#11 Post by pzman84 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 6:49 pm

tryavna wrote:Which reminds me, where are all the silent films that Warner owns the rights to? If masterpieces like Greed don't deserve the 3-disc treatment and The Big Parade and/or The Crowd the 2-disc treatment, then what's the point of putting special editions together anyway?
Come on! Having a two disc special edition of Constantine is vitally important to promoting cinematic art! Also, I'd like to know why Warners has not released a Ernst Lubitsch silents collection. Or they could have a two disc special edition of The Merry Widow, one with von Stroheim's and one with Lubitsch. Anyway, more silents are needed from Warner's

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#12 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jan 21, 2006 11:14 am

zedz wrote:
ltfontaine wrote:I admire what Schmidlin and company accomplished with their version of "Greed" and expect that it will surface someday on DVD. It's hard to regard even the "reconstructed" version, however, as anything more than a fragment of the original film. One can't help watch it with an admiration that is, at best, bittersweet.
Indeed. There's so much footage missing from the reconstruction that it can be a bit of a chore to sit through. It's more like somebody making a meticulous argument for Greed as a supreme masterpiece than a masterpiece in its own right. The argument is, however, completely convincing.
What the process of watching the still-inserts on Schmidlins GREED amounts to is torture, not entertainment. What you realize is that everything (well, maybe not everything) that was excised from the film was all of the extreme filmmaking which the studio thought was just absolute insanity (the story of the junkman, McTeague's dad, etc), filled with extremely exaggerated low-key lighting & bizarre makeups/characters which was as bizarre if not even more bizarre than anything that the Germans had done/were doing in their most extreme expressionist works i e Leni (WAXWORKS, BACKSTAIRS, w Jessner), Weine in CALIGARI or RASKALNIKOV or GENUINE, or Murnau & Freund's work in LAST LAUGH. I don't mean simply in exaggerated use of light & shadow but in acting, the grostequerie which Leni was so fond of, of bringing out the moster, the hunchback, the mountebank which lurks in the minds of all men.

It's this mind-blowng feast, a veritable fantasmagoria of experimentation which was excised by eliminating these expressive story lines... leaving only the under-developed core story for us to see to day, which reads as straight location melodrama, albeit uncompromising and masterful even today. It was never meant to be seen in this fashion, with all expression & meaning & contrasting story lines removed... thus von's heartbreaking quote which kicks off the double-tape VHS Schmidlin/Warner release that I still refer to regularly, the quote which runs something like:

"Even if I spoke to you uninterrupted for two weeks, I couldn't begin to express the heartbreak I felt in seeing my life's work being torn to pieces before my very eyes."

The lack of imagination of the studios in this country is expressed by the fact that the film couldn't be brought down from 10 to even perhaps SIX hours, and turn it into the two part epic which been common in Germany via Lang (SPINNE, MABUSE SPIELER, and the then-in-the-works NIBEL), as well as Joe May (INDIAN TOMB), or leaving the 10 hr cut as is and releasing it as a multi-part serial as was common in Germany & France.

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#13 Post by blindside8zao » Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:40 pm

I just read the section in Cook's "History of Narrative Cinema" on Stroheim. The story of his repeated foiled efforts have me starving to see and know more. Are the two Kino DVDs the best shots I have at this? Can someone give me some more Stroheim tip offs and explain how much of which prints exist and their ownership, the chances we have of seeing them, etc...

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#14 Post by FilmFanSea » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:31 pm

blindside8zao wrote:I just read the section in Cook's "History of Narrative Cinema" on Stroheim. The story of his repeated foiled efforts have me starving to see and know more. Are the two Kino DVDs the best shots I have at this? Can someone give me some more Stroheim tip offs and explain how much of which prints exist and their ownership, the chances we have of seeing them, etc...
There are actually three Kino releases of Stroheim's films:

Blind Husbands (w/ The Great Gabbo)
Foolish Wives (w/ The Man You Love to Hate)
Queen Kelly

Señor Schreck can probably give you the best advice, but personally, I find Foolish Wives to be a masterpiece, and Queen Kelly not far behind. Both DVDs are quite good--I would highly recommend them. (I haven't seen either the movie or the DVD of Blind Husbands.)

Also out from Image is Merry-Go-Round, which Stroheim wrote, designed, and directed for 6 weeks before being fired by his nemesis, the 22-year-old (!) Irving Thalberg. According to IMDb, only 10 minutes of footage from the final film is by Stroheim (Rupert Julian, who took over as director, apparently re-shot most of Stroheim's footage).

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#15 Post by Rufus T. Firefly » Tue Jul 18, 2006 5:10 am

blindside8zao wrote:I just read the section in Cook's "History of Narrative Cinema" on Stroheim. The story of his repeated foiled efforts have me starving to see and know more. Are the two Kino DVDs the best shots I have at this? Can someone give me some more Stroheim tip offs and explain how much of which prints exist and their ownership, the chances we have of seeing them, etc...
You have no chance of seeing The Devil's Passkey, as no prints exist - the negative had deteriorated completely in the Universal vaults by the early 1940s. The Wedding March was released on VHS, but given Paramount's attitiude to its silents is not likely to appear on DVD. Not sure if The Merry Widow made it to VHS, but it does exist - I saw it many years ago in a cinema here. I've also seen Hello Sister, in which you can see Stroheim's hand, but it's a bit of a mess because of the reshooting by Werker. Langlois had the only copy of The Honeymoon, but it got burned.

I can recommend Blind Husbands. The DVD is good and so is the film - sort of a dry run for Foolish Wives.

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#16 Post by blindside8zao » Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:00 pm

sounds like blind husbands and queen kelly for me then, I'll just add them to my large list of Kino purchases in the DDD sale. I read the Bazin essays on Stroheim today and will probably fish around a little more in other books I have until I get the DVDs and time to watch them.

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#17 Post by Ashirg » Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:28 am


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#18 Post by denti alligator » Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:38 am

You should really go for Foolish Wives and then Queen Kelly and then, if you have time, Blind Husbands. But don't put aside Foolish Wives!

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#19 Post by stroszeck » Wed Jul 19, 2006 1:51 am

If Paramount does not release WEDDING MARCH I swear I'm going to boycott the goddamn company. How stupid are they that they don't understand that there IS a market for silents, especially masterpieces?

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#20 Post by 4LOM » Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:37 am

Ashirg wrote:Blind Husbands
From "Edition Filmmuseum":
Blind Husbands, an erotic drama set in the alpine scenery of South Tyrol, still baffles its audiences through its precise visual language and the deep moral ambiguity that pervades the plot. Erich von Stroheim's directorial debut from 1919 here is presented in a gorgeous, tinted colour print and with original german-language intertitles.

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#21 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:10 pm

Brian/FilmFanC & Dent got it right as far as my tastes go... FOOLISH WIVES, QUEEN KELLY, then BLIND HUS. Foolish Wives is to my mind the precursor film to the artistic masterpiece melodrama, with elevated moments of high art cinematography & poetry... the template followed by Renoir, Kurosawa (I always thought von Stroeheim was the director the Kurosawa of REDBEARD, HIGH & LOW, RAN, etc, most resembled). The David Lean-type style of a massive-scale, insightful melodrama, with a literary bent, punctuated by moments of of high-intensity contrasts & poetry. The sick part is Universal & MGM tried their absolute damndest to remove completely all traces of these punctuations of high cinematic beauty from Stroeheims masterworks. And practically succeeded. The EVS quote at the beginning of the WB/Schmidlin GREED VHS tears at my heart every time I read it: (paraphrasing just barely)

"Even if I talked to you nonstop for two weeks straight, I could hardly scratch the surface in trying to describe the heartbreak that I felt in watching helplessly while my life's work was destroyed before my very eyes..."

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#22 Post by htdm » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:34 pm

Slightly off-topic (but not too far), von's radio eulogy of D.W. Griffith (included on Kino's Griffith Masterworks set) has to be one of the most entertaining and moving speeches of its kind that I've ever heard. If you've never heard it, definitely check it out.

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#23 Post by blindside8zao » Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:07 pm

sorry, I meant the wives one, but I think I might end up getting all three now. I'm going to have to curtail my criterion purchases to afford all the kino's I'm getting ready to buy.

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#24 Post by FilmFanSea » Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:12 pm

blindside8zao wrote:sorry, I meant the wives one, but I think I might end up getting all three now. I'm going to have to curtail my criterion purchases to afford all the kino's I'm getting ready to buy.
If you live in the US, remember that Deep Discount DVD is having a 50% off sale on Kino titles through the end of July.

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#25 Post by godardslave » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:15 pm

i think i missed this when it was announced...
Dvdbeaver has just announced that Warner shall be releasing Greed on DVD, as well as The Crowd, The Parade, the Unholy Three, and the Wind. No specifics yet, except that these titles will be released in 2006 and 2007.
has this been confirmed as definite? Any more specifics/dates?

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