The debate over Erich von Stroheim's reputation as a filmmaker exists in a state of suspended animation: it's more or less settled, but could conceivably fly open one day if the 9-hour version of his masterpiece, Greed, is ever discovered. The film was a page-for-page rendering of Frank Norris' classic American novel McTeague, about a man of limited intellect who fails at his ambition to be a dentist and winds up chained to a dead man in Death Valley. With a shooting script only ten pages shorter than the novel, it took a grueling year to shoot and ended up provoking an actual fistfight between von Stroheim and Louis B. Mayer. Upon completion, it was screened for a select few at its full length, then Mayer ordered that it be hacked down to two hours and allegedly ordered the remaining seven hours of footage to be destroyed. Unless that information is wrong, and several dusty film cans pop up in a basement somewhere in the year 2036, we're stuck with what we have.

categories Cinematical