It's New Year's Eve. Three drunkards evoke a legend. The legend tells that the last person to die in a year, if he is a great sinner, will have to drive during the whole year the Phantom ... See full summary »
John McTeague was a simple slow man who became a dentist after working at the Big Dipper Gold Mine. He is now being hunted in Death Valley by his ex-best friend Marcus and the law. His lot was cast the day that he meet his future wife Trina in his office. She was with Marcus and she bought a lottery ticket. Well Mac fell for her and Marcus stepped aside. When Mac and Trina married, she won the Lottery for $5000 and became obsessive about the money in gold. Marcus is steamed as he stepped aside and now she is rich so he has the law shut down Mac as he has no official schooling for his dentistry. Trina fearful that they will take her gold away sells everything and takes all Mac earns when he is working. She adds to her stash of gold as they both live as paupers. When Mac has no job and no money, he leaves and Trina moves. Driven to desperation at being poor and hungry he finds Trina and demands the gold. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
MGM did not want to fund the arduous, expensive trip to Death Valley to shoot the final part of the film, and instead wanted von Stroheim to take the scenes in Oxnard, California. The director ended up getting his way. See more »
After Marcus breaks McTeague's pipe and throws a knife at him, men pull McTeague's tie off as they hold him back. The tie is back in place a moment later as McTeague rushes out of the saloon. See more »
[Trina won't let him in the house, and won't give him any money or food]
Come on, Trina, I wouldn't even treat a dog like this!
[shows where her fingers were amputated]
Not even if he... bit you?
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You don't have to watch "Greed" for very long to become impressed with the masterful technique of von Stroheim and his cast. Sometimes it relies on fancy methods such as the occasional use of gold tinting (which must have demanded some painstaking work), and at other times it relies on flawless direction, carefully chosen details, and a keen understanding of what is happening in the characters' lives. The tense finale is especially memorable, a sequence you won't forget for a while.
The only real questions about "Greed" have to do with its length. Hardly anyone disputes the folly of the studio decision to chop the original down to a couple of hours. The restored version uses stills and title cards to fill in the most important scenes that were left out in the studio release, and from this you can also piece together what was actually included in the shorter version. Several significant secondary characters were almost completely eliminated, which took away some of the relationships that were supposed to serve as important comparisons with the central relationship between McTeague and his wife. Even if they had been right to cut the film to a quarter of its length, the choices they made left much to be desired.
Would it really have been better with several more hours of material? Although there is plenty of plot, there isn't anything in the story thematically that would require anything longer then the restored version. It's a gripping study of human flaws, especially greed, but goes no farther. It is admirable to see a director try to hold so closely to a novel, but the Frank Norris novel, while detailed, convincing, and well-conceived as far as it goes, doesn't have the depth or the multi-dimensional characters of the greatest novels. There is no doubt that the lost footage would have provided many more examples of fine film-making, but most of it would not have added very much to the story itself.
What would probably have been perfect is something close to the length of the restored version, with the actual (but now lost) footage instead of the patchwork reconstruction. Since that is impossible, we are very fortunate to have the restored version that includes all of the most important parts of the story and that gives new life to one of the fine classics of silent cinema.
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