Monday, June 15, 2015

Mini-Review - "Greed" (1924)

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Nowadays, the story behind "Greed" is more fascinating than this already intriguing silent film. The director, Erich von Strohiem, wanted to make a movie that was more than just immediate gratification and made the audience think. What he created was his nine-hour masterpiece of a family torn apart by its own avarice, ending in a desperate duel for money in the middle of Death Valley.

However, the producers and heads of MGM Studios wouldn't allow Strohiem to d├ębut his film unless he cut it down, because they insisted that no one would want to watch a nine-hour movie. So he cut it down to roughly five-hours, but the studio still wasn't happy. They had someone else cut down the film again to a much more manageable two and a half hours. von Strohiem was understandably pissed off, as the studio had destroyed his vision and was not interested in what he wanted to use cinema to say about humanity.

It was believed that von Strohiem initially held on to the original nine-hour film, but one night, in a drunken rage, he burned and destroyed his copy of the film and his true vision of "Greed" was forever lost. All we have now is what MGM had in mind.

To be fair, MGM's version of "Greed" is still wonderful to watch, as we watch a family slowly devolve into madness and paranoia, while still using fantastic silent cinema techniques to capture so much without ever saying a word. From the cat preying on the caged birds, to the gold-tint on every valuable possession throughout the film.

Like most great silent films, "Greed" is simple yet effective. It understands the visual appeal of movies, but lacks the technology to create a truly encapsulating experience. The film makes up for that with striking images that range from triumphant to heart-breaking to downright terrifying. It knows what it wants to do, and does so to the best of its ability.

Final Grade: B+

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