Movie: GREED (1924)
Why Did I watch this?
Can you believe it?! It's been a whole year of this! We ended on Greed, a four hour but used to be 9-hour epic of love, betrayal, and America. What a movie. I think I first read about it in the 1001 Films You Should Watch Before you Die book, and it just looked really really interesting. It's not even on Netflix's DVD service so I knew I'd have to hunt it down a little. Turns out I could just spend $4 for the rental. But what a way to close the year!
What Did I know ahead of time?
I may or may not have known about the excessive run time, I knew it was long, but I had definitely forgotten how chopped and altered this current best version was. See, much of this film has been lost to time, so the best we got is a pieced together cobbling of mostly still images and intertitles. It's not great, but you can still tell some of the acting here is superb just by their expressions! I knew it was between two dudes who dislike each other, but I did not know all the ins and outs.
How Was It?
Greed is considered one of the all-time classics and I wonder if it hasn't ever been remade for that reason. Because this could use a remake. Sorry, like it doesn't even have spoken dialogue, but this is so damn good! But it's hard to maintain a connection through all the still images and let's face it folks, really excessive length.
I get what's going on here, there are these parallel stories that heighten in the impact of the main story being told and give alternate paths to the terrible decisions everyone makes. I'm into movies that are more focused and deliberate, all driving towards one goal, which you can argue this does, but it takes a long way about it.
The film is actually very basic, it's all in the title. It's greed. For gold specifically, but also ownership of spouses, self-interest, careers, and an inability to control one's envy. It tracks the rise and fall of a wonderful San Francisco dentist named McTeague as he falls in love with his friend's cousin. She wins the lottery but everyone becomes obsessed with the money until they all die. A tale as old as time.
Shouler, though, covets both his cousin and her money. Was that just a normal thing in 1924? Like, he says "this is my cousin, my sweetie!" and I thought maybe cousin or sweetie were just different terms back then? But he keeps saying it...I think he was really just trying to bone his cousin. But it's more like he feels entitled to the money she won, not the woman herself. And nevermind any of her feelings, she isn't really all that into either of them. McTeague definitely gets a little rapey when she's knocked out in his dentist chair. There is such lust and despicability here! It's fun to watch!
But it drags, man. I don't care that the original nine-hour version was one of the greatest, most epic feats of cinema. Maybe as a mini-series on Netflix these days. Dude, we need a short-ass movie. There are a lot of side characters here who come in and out and don't do much. We could definitely montage some of this wedding stuff to get to the juicy finger-biting parts.
Anyone else get King Schultz vibes when his wagon rolls into town with that bobbly tooth? I think Tarantino knows what's up. There were other bits and pieces here and you can tell this film runs deep in cultural lore.
The ending is great, too. For all their violence and hatred of each other clouds their judgment. There is a bit of inherited evil here, like McTeague's father was a drunken horror, and by the film's end he acts like him as well as visually recalls him. But that's just not an excuse, they make all the decisions they make and their judgment is clouded by wrath and vengeance for no real purpose. It's an assuredly brutal film and one that you can picture getting made in director Erich von Stroheim's basement as a mad scientist without regard to audience, box office, toys, or Oscars. It's a pure film, man. Epic in scope, length, acting, and even the luscious gold-tinted cinematography. One might call it the AVABAR 2: Wet 'n' Wild (2022) of its time.
I liked this a lot, I wish had given myself more time to watch it and digest, honestly I rushed things this week before the New Year.
What's on the docket, next, then folks? We're 52 movies closer to watching every great forgotten movie that has burned a hole in my queue. Next year we'll keep this up because I like how it forces me to watch stuff, but I might lighten up the release schedule. Some weeks are just tough, man. I've got 38 movies on my list right now, come January I'll announce my pledge and start getting at it.