Greed

Greed

Gold-Gold-Gold-Gold; Bright and yellow, hard and cold...

Greed is a silent picture directed by Erich von Stroheim, who can rightfully be considered the predecessor to Michael Cimino’s all-encompassing egomaniacal approach to filmmaking. The original cut of this film ran almost ten hours, which is mind-boggling in and of itself (thankfully, at least partially, the film was cut down to about 4 hours with the director’s blessing). It is also the first Hollywood film shot entirely on location, and this alone would qualify it for inclusion on the list. Thankfully, it is also a well done if unnecessarily long film that succeeds at being both innovative and dramatic.

The film details the lives of the McTeague family and how their greed following a lottery win would go on to destroy them all; a simple premise that admittedly doesn’t need 4 hours of storytelling to pull off, as the film meanders quite a bit. The film’s location shooting pays off tremendously; the film breathes life in each shot through the camerawork and the settings. The music in the print I saw was a little cheesy at times, but it became quite effective in the parts when it needed to be. The writing was also a bit weird; the title cards were often written in stylish prose and thick accents rather than simply conveying information, which could be a point for and against the film.

There are many prints of this one available, from the studio truncated 140-minute version to a somewhat restored using production stills 4-hour version (the one I watched), so your mileage may vary with this one depending on the version you see. I found it quite good, although too bogged down by its length to really be as effective as it clearly wanted to be. All the great parts were lost in the shuffle of the rest of the film, which was unfortunate. I’ve heard that the 140-minute cut isn’t as badly regarded nowadays as the director did back when, so if you can find a copy of that version I’d say to give it a go; otherwise, the film is just too long to really sit through, as good as it otherwise may be.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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