Director Erich von Stroheim’s 1922 silent film, Foolish Wives, was considered the most expensive film ever produced at the time of its release. It was released by Universal Pictures, who dubbed it “the first million dollar movie” in Hollywood. The film was severely cut before the release date, and the missing footage was thought to have been lost forever.
The film concerns a man named Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin. He considers himself a Count, drinks oxblood, eats caviar for breakfast, and has delusions of grandeur. To pass the time, he swindles women out of their hard-earned money with the aid of his “cousins”, Vera and Olga, both of whom consider themselves to be royalty. The film chronicles their shenanigans, as Karamzin plots to swindle the wife of an American envoy.
Director von Stroheim was considered a true artist, but he was also an egotistical tyrant. Here, he casts himself in the lead role of Karamzin.
Kino Classics has now given us the opportunity to see the film in its entirety, running at about 143 minutes. The transfer is absolutely gorgeous. It has been mastered in high definition from a 35mm print of an AFI restoration from 1972. It includes the original score from composer, Sigmund Romberg.
Special features include a ninety minute documentary on the egotistical Eric von Stroheim, entitled The Man You Loved to Hate. It was released in 1970, and runs for ninety minutes. It is a must for any fan of the film and incredibly enlightening. There is also an audio commentary from Stroheim biographer, Richard Koszarski, as well as interview clips and a sequence of Censor Board cuts.
Foolish Wives is available from Kino Lorber. It is a must own for fans of classic cinema. Highly recommended.