(Review originally written at 25 August 2007)

"Greed" is one of the most notorious partially lost movies. Even though we'll probably be never able to watch the full 9 hour+ version of the movie as Erich von Stroheim intended to, the 1999 restored TCM version gives us a pretty good idea of what Erich von Stroheim intended and how great and epic this movie really was and still is, despite not being available in its full glory. I'm not Erich von Stroheim greatest fan but this movie was simply great.

It's the first feature length MGM movie, when it was still called Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, even though it also had Louis B. Mayer as one of the producers and obvious big man behind the movie. The fact that it's the first feature length MGM movie should alone already interest the movie buffs.

Because most of the original 9 hour footage got destroyed by the studio, only a fraction of the movie as it was originally intended to by the director still exists today. The original released version was over 2 hours long and in 1999 a restored 4 hour version of the movie was made, to honor this movie and as a attempt to make the movie the way Erich von Stroheim wanted us to see it. However because most footage got destroyed and is assumed to be lost forever, the restored version uses lots of production stills. It's similar to the way "London After Midnight" got restored. Non-moving pictures of course aren't the best way to watch a motion picture. Because of the lack of moving images, the movie gets forced to use lots of title cards, which make the movie a bit tiresome and overlong at parts but also at the same time definitely helps to tell the story and make things clear. Something that the restored version of "London After Midnight" lacked at times. I don't know if the cut down 2 hour+ version of the movie also uses many title cards (guess its not as many) since I haven't seen the cut down 2 hour+ version of the movie but I think its fair to comment just on the 4 hour restored version of the movie, since it obviously comes the most close to the way Erich von Stroheim originally intended this movie to be.

The movie begins as one without worries and with all of the usual character introductions and love/drama. However from the moment on when the $5000 gets won, the people in the movie and the story suddenly changes. The movie perfectly shows the effect greed can have on people. Suddenly everybody wants a piece of it and some even go really far to get it but also the persons with the money start to get greedy and suspicious of the society around them. The greed starts to destroy friendship, relations and the individuals, which eventually all leads up to the fantastic climax of the movie, set in Death Valley. It makes "Greed" a really powerful and effective movie to watch, that is quite similar to D.W. Griffith earliest epic work. The messages and morals ('money doesn't make happy') of it all and the epic way it gets delivered are all comparable.

I really liked the fast paced editing of the movie, with lots of different camera-angels for one sequence. It helps to make this movie more than just another average genre piece from the '20's. Still there are some sequences in the movie that simply go on for far too long. I don't I completely disagree with the studio bosses wanting to cut this movie down, though they in this case did it to the extreme- and inexcusable way, without even knowing the book or script of the movie, which obviously went to the expense of the movie and its story and flow.

The movie doesn't have the most interesting main character. Gibson Gowland just isn't the most charismatic or interesting looking actor. It also doesn't help that he looks like Torgo from "Manos: The Hands of Fate", especially toward the ending of the movie. Zasu Pitts on the other hand was perfectly cast. The supporting actors are all charismatic in their roles, though the movie perhaps tried a bit too hard to put many characters, with story-lines into the movie. It works on some levels, especially for the morals of the movie but it also makes the movie tiresome and at times perhaps even hard to follow.

A must-see for (silent)movie lovers.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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