Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 silent classic is more famous for its original eight-hour version than for this cut that MGM carved out of it (though apparently there were several prerelease versions, which Stroheim screened privately for separate groups). The studio junked the rest of the footage, and apart from a reconstruction cobbled together recently with production stills and the shooting script, the release version is all that remains today. But even in its butchered state this is one of Stroheim’s greatest films, a passionate adaptation of Frank Norris’s great naturalist novel McTeague in which a slow-witted dentist (Gibson Gowland) and the neurotic woman he marries (the great ZaSu Pitts) are ultimately destroyed by having won a lottery. Stroheim respected the story enough to extend it imaginatively as well as translate it into cinematic terms, and he filmed exclusively on location (mainly San Francisco, Oakland, and Death Valley). Greed remains one of the most modern of silent films, anticipating Citizen Kane in its deep-focus compositions and Jean Renoir in the emotional complexity of its tragic humanism. Jean Hersholt costars. Essential viewing.
2 hours 13 min • 2010