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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>
A basic marital morality tale, enthused with Stroheim's lust for self-loathing. He plays an over-sexed, effete, lizard of a Prussian Officer, named Von Steubens, who zealously seeks to dishonour the wife of an American doctor holidaying in an Alpine retreat.
Interestingly, Stroheim is said to have virtually stalked Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal, in order to get his story, The Pinnacle, made into what would become Blind Husbands. Not the least hint or sign, then, of the crazy, obsessive auteur, a part that Stroheim would pioneer! As a director, Stroheim does have a wonderful visual eye (scenes of men climbing mountains etc.). There are also some very inventive shots, such as when the wife is looking at her practically impotent husband, the doctor, sleeping in bed, via a mirror, and then sees a young couple at the lodge in place of him, completely in love, before going back to the snoring doctor.
Moreover, the English actor who would go on to play McTeague in Stroheim's much greater, later, work: Greed, here plays a mountain guide. He is a symbol of the people of the mountains, strong, pious and devout, a complete opposite to Von Steubens' decadent Officer, who uses his cultural refinement only to guarantee his baser purposes, wooing the local peasant girls with poetry for instance, and wooing the doctor's wife with a violin.
But that's the problem with film. Although the characterisation isn't completely two-dimensional, the esteemed doctor, for instance, shows envy and hatred. His wife also admits an ambivalent interest in Von Steubens unwholesome charm. But Stroheim seems to idealise these mountain people from the get go, which is stupid romanticism. Anyone who has such romanticism should read An Alpine Idyll, a short story by Hemingway.
Still, an interesting early Stroheim.
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