Monday, October 5, 2009
22. GREED (1924)
Running Time: 239 minutes
Directed By: Erich von Stroheim
Written By: Erich von Stroheim, June Mathis, from the novel McTeague by Frank Norris
Main Cast: Gibson Gowland, ZaSu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller
"MONEY, GET BACK...I'M ALL RIGHT JACK KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY STACK"
I started watching this film at around 11pm last night and after several bathroom and smoke breaks it's 5am and I'm finished. The version that I watched was the 1999 restoration, using still photographs and von Stroheim's shooting script, restored by Rick Schmidlin. All I have to say after seeing Greed is that it was absolutely phenomenal.
Greed tells the story of McTeague or Mac (played marvelously by Gowland) a common man living in a small mining town and working for the Big Dipper Mines. One day a fly by night dentist comes to town and Mac's mother instantly sees illusions of fame for Mac, so she packs him up and sends him off with the dentist to be his apprentice.
Flash forward a few years and Mac is living in San Francisco with his very own dental parlor and living a pretty good life, although an anti-social one, as well. Mac's best friend is Marcus and one day when Marcus' girlfriend/cousin, Trina, breaks a tooth, Marcus takes her to see McTeague. Mac does the needed work on her and in the midst of it all falls in love with her. Mac, knowing that Trina and Marcus are to be engaged, goes to talk with his friend and is given Marcus' blessing, saying that he'll step away so that Mac may be happy with Trina.
So McTeague and Trina get engaged and prior to the wedding, Trina wins the lottery, a heart sum of $5,000, hearty for that time anyway. Marcus is immediately stricken with jealousy, as now, he not only has lost his girl, but has also lost the loot that came with her. Mac and Trina eventually get married and Marcus and Mac quarrel and lose touch with each other.
Flash forward again and Mac is still a practicing dentist and Trina is hoarding her lottery winnings, leaving them untouched, and also stockpiling away another little nest egg, that she pretends to Mac doesn't even exist. Mac can't so much as squeeze a dime out of Trina for a bottle of beer, as she seems to become obsessed with money and unable to part with it.
One day a letter arrives from the Dental Association informing Mac that, due to the fact that he never went to dental school and never received a license to practice dentistry, he must immediately close his practice and stop accepting patients, or he could face jail time. This is the beginning of the end for the McTeague's, as they're forced to sell their parlor, and move into a considerably lower quality living space.
What follows from here on out is the absolute and total downfall of two human beings, in Trina and McTeague. McTeague continues to battle with his wife for money, eventually turning to drinking to drown his sorrows. After the drinking comes the wife beating as Mac seemingly totally loses grips with reality and its almost as if he goes a bit mad. Trina, still obsessed with money continues to save and hoard it, until the day Mac steals her nest egg, forcing her to withdrawal and live off of her $5,000. An eerie seen, sees Trina crawling into bed with her money and sleeping with it next to her body. Mac eventually goes down to Death Valley to do a little more mining, before the absolute and brilliant climax of this movie takes place.
When people think of defining silent cinema, I believe their minds immediately think back to Griffith's "The Birth of A Nation", when in fact Greed should be the film that comes to mind when contemplating the achievements of the silent era. This movie is one of the true definitions of the title of the book, "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". This film is absolutely captivating, drawing you into the world of greed, corruption and murder. The visuals are stunning, with splashes of gold strewn throughout the picture, and the final ten minutes in the middle of Death Valley with the golden sunlight gazing down on the actors is breathtaking. This film shows the true negative effects that money can have on some people and the lengths they'll go to, to keep their fortunes intact and comes with my absolute highest recommendation.
RATING: 10/10 Anything less would be unjust. Erich von Stroheim truly created a masterpiece in Greed. And if you ever want to read the story of Greed, and how it got cut from nearly nine hours down to four, swing over to Wikipedia and look it up, as it's quite fascinating.
NEXT UP: Sherlock Jr. ...And now for something completely different...a little bit 'o Buster.
October 5, 2009 5:39am
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