An Austrian military officer and roue' attempts to seduce the wife of a surgeon. The two men confront each other in a test of abilities that ends surprisingly. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Von Stroheim's first and seminal directorial effort
BLIND HUSBANDS was Von Stroheim's first directorial effort. It is separated from his third (FOOLISH WIVES)by the lost DEVIL'S PASSKEY and seems a seminal work re themes he was to use later in FOOLISH WIVES and indeed which were to have an influence on many of his films. Here he cuts the same figure he does in FOOLISH WIVES and THE WEDDING MARCH - the Austrian military man with shaved head, high boots, monacle and high military cap. He has a dapper air with cigarette and either riding strap or walking stick. He essentially always plays the same character in these films - the roue, out to seduce a married woman with the goal of obtaining either sex (BLIND HUSBANDS) or money (FOOLISH WIVES). In one of his two masterpieces, THE WEDDING MARCH, this character was to be softened by actually falling in love with an unobtainable woman, while pursuing a marriage of title. In BLIND HUSBANDS he is also two-timing a jealous woman of the lower classes (here an inn maid). Although this sub-plot does not advance here, it does in FOOLISH WIVES to the point of disaster.
Von Stroheim's films were certainly revolutionary for their time, in exposing the vice and duplicity in human nature that other film makers were avoiding. BLIND HUSBANDS is rather crude in its acting, cinematography and editing - it was, after all, Von Stroheim's first film and the medium was just teetering on the edge of its advancement as a true art form (something which Von Stroheim was to take full advantage of in GREED and THE WEDDING MARCH.) Here then it is the story that fascinates, not the production values.
Von Stroheim's character latches onto the neglected wife of an American surgeon, vacationing in Austria. He makes love to her behind her husband's back but observed by the husband's mountain-climbing guide friend. Eventually the two men are alone on a summit. Von Stroheim is the weaker men, having had to be helped considerably by the husband to reach the peak. There the latter finds a letter in Von Stroheim's jacket pocket in his wife's handwriting. Before being able to read it, Von Stroheim knocks it from his hand and it falls down the mountainside. Did the letter prove his wife's unfaithfulness? Von Stroheim says yes and the husband leaves him to rot on the summit (We see shadows of vultures on the rocks - obviously and badly originating in someone offscreen whirling a fake bird on a string). During the descent, the husband finds the letter and reading it, learns of his wife's innocence. Why did Von Stroheim lie and should the husband now return to save him or let him rot? I won't spoil the ending.
This is certainly a triangle with more thought involved in its writing and character development than is to be found in most product of 1919.
The film is interesting and might be worth pairing with FOOLISH WIVES. It is no great achievement on its own, but does gain significance when studying the developing writing and diectorial career of Herr Von Stroheim and is recommended more for study than entertainment.
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