Quick recap: A con artist, Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin, seduces many people and swindles them out of a lot of money.
Fun (?) fact: Director Erich von Stroheim (who also played the Count) insisted on everything on set being of the highest quality: the champagne, the caviar, the underwear. Not surprisingly, he went way over budget.
My thoughts: My 1001 Movies book added Foolish Wives, based on the 85 minute version. As is my life, though, the only version I could find online was the two and half hour one. The movie was originally 6 hours so I guess it could’ve been worse. Still. I appreciate von Stroheim’s attention to detail, but this movie dragged on and on and on.
The Count had a pretty successful operation going on until he took it too far. At one point in the film, he had promised marriage to the maid and also had his scheme going on with Mrs. Hughes, the rich American wife. As if that wasn’t enough, he was probably sleeping with ‘Princess’ Olga and her ‘Cousin’, Vera. And then, for some reason, the Count also went after a guy’s intellectually disabled daughter. Now, I’m not an authority on schemes by any means, but that just seems like a lot to keep up with. I’ll give to him, though- he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling maid who burned down the castle with him inside. He lived, of course, but was disgraced when he jumped for safety without trying to save Mrs. Hughes first. That’s actually really funny, now that I think about it: this dude was sleeping with all these girls, running a counterfeit money ring and who knows what else, but it was manners, or lack thereof, that did him in.
People in 1922 went nuts over all the fancy things in the film and specifically the sets, which were built exclusively for Foolish Wives. It didn’t impress me all that much because that’s the age I live in, but I can see how exciting that would’ve been back in the day. I watched a version of the film that was very blurry so had I watched something more high quality, I would’ve appreciated it a little more. I was impressed, however, with the camera angles. I’m not going to attempt to describe them but it wasn’t just a camera set on the actors. The focus was much more advanced than I have seen in a silent film before and it kept me from going insane from the dragging plot.
Final review: 3/5. Would I watch this again? No. But it was more interesting than I thought it would be.
Up next: Rio Bravo