Sunday, September 27, 2009

17. Foolish Wives (1923)

Running Time: 143 minutes
Directed By: Erich von Stroheim
Written By: Marian Ainslee, Walter Anthony, Erich von Stroheim
Main Cast: Erich von Stroheim, Rudolph Christians, Miss Dupont, Maude George, Mae Busch

Sidenote: Again we run into a length issue with this film, but instead of myself coming up on the short end of the spectrum, I actually got a hold of a longer cut of the film. The version that I got from Netflix, from Kino DVD, had a running time of 143 minutes, after a restoration of the film, while IMDB lists the running time at only 117 minutes.

The first of two Erich von Stroheim films on my great quest, Foolish Wives, was not one that didn't do a whole lot for me. While there were chunks of the film that kept me engaged, on a whole I found myself bored and unenthused.

Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin and his female cousins (or at least he calls them cousins, it's never actually made crystal clear, whether or not they are or not), who are basically con-artists and criminals, find themselves in Monte Carlo and ready to do anything to make a franc.

Upon hearing the news that Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hughes, an American diplomat and his wife, are arriving in Monte Carlo, Karamzin sees an opportunity to get close to the wife and con her out of some fast cash. While her husband is away on business, Karamzin finds himself at the hotel where the Hughes' are staying and begins to lay on the gentlemanly charm thick. This flatters the lady, who isn't used to this type of treatment and attention.

Meanwhile, while Karamzin is seducing the wife, the cousins and him are receiving counterfeit francs from master counterfeiter Ventucci, that they can pass around the casino's of Monte Carlo and make even more money. Also, in the meantime, we hear of a plan that Karamzin had made with his maid to marry her, but seemingly he's just playing games with her and has no intention of doing anything of the sort.

In the end, when Karamzin finally gains the full trust of the "foolish wife" he begs her for money, claiming that his reputation and life are at rish unless he comes into a large sum of money, which the wife willingly hands over to the Count.

The movie, for me, didn't really seem to go anywhere, as we're left setting up this master seduction the whole time, with Karamzin trying to gain the wife's trust and having to sludge through long, boring scenes, like Karamzin and the wife stranded in a cabin in the middle of the woods, while caught in a rainstorm. While some scenes did engage me (the scenes at the roulette tables, and the scene of Karamzin "crying" in order to gain the maid's sympathy) for the most part this movie left me bored and asking "Why is this included in this book?" Basically this film is way too drawn out to finally get to that inevitable climax, and the payoff just isn't worth it.

As another plus for this movie, I have to say I absolutely loved the scene where Mrs. Hughes, throughout the film, keeps dropping things and a her always nearby United States officer, who is apparently assigned to be by her side at all times, seemingly refuses to pick them up for her. At the end, we learn that the reason he was so hesitant to help her, was because he didn't have any hands, as he apparently lost them in the war. A very touching moment in the film, and by far the best scene.

RATING: 3/10 That's as high as I can go, for the few scenes that I mentioned. I'm still looking
forward to the other Stroheim film though, Greed, as it looks like a fantastic film.

NEXT UP: Our Hospitality...My introduction to Buster Keaton.

September 27, 2009 1:57pm


  1. You are doing a very good job of informing about the movie. Keep up the great work!

  2. Great news! I have managed to buy a R1 player.. OK, it's just one of those portable ones with a 7" screen, but I can now buy impoed R1 discs from America.. and the first one I got was this. I'd been wanting to see it for ages.. and even more so since I so enjoyed 'Greed'.
    Well, there were dull moments.. and some very strange inexplicable moments (What was with the monk/priest turning up at the hut.. and what was the point of the 'mad woman' in the hut?*
    But on the whole, I enjoyed it. Not as much as 'Greed', but I'd still give it bout 6 or 7.
    And yes, I'd agree, a highpoint was discovering the military officer had no arms...
    * Perhaps the monk was a fortuitious 'chaperone' who's arrival saved the wife from the provebial 'ate-worse-than-death'??

  3. Yeah, I too loved Greed. But this was just rubbish, if I remember correctly. A re-watch couldn't hurt. I'm glad you got an R1 player. Hopefully it helps in furthering you into the pages of the 1001.


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