Erich Von Stroheim has become something of an iconic figure among those of us who appreciate silent cinema. "Foolish Wives" is one of the director's classic films, a 1922 feature in which a man pretends to royalty in order to seduce women. Von Stroheim is a quintessential auteur, as he wrote, directed, and stars in this feature. Each of these contributions is worthy of some mention. The writing, first of all, is of a literary nature that delves more deeply into characters and situations than a lot of dramas during this period in cinema's relative infancy. The direction is especially impressive based on Von Stroheim's vision, his setting up of shots, and his use of massive, expensive sets adding an element of spectacle to the proceedings. His performance is understated melodrama at its most charismatic.
While hardly the filmmaker's masterpiece (that would be "Greed,"which he would do a couple of years later), "Foolish Wives" remains an essential Von Stroheim production, offering his penchant of delving into edgier sexual situations, and presenting his expensive (and expansive) taste in production. At the time of its initial release, "Foolish Wives" was advertised as the first film to cost over a million dollars to produce.
The Kino DVD and blu ray release is of stunning quality, mastered in high definition from an archival 35mm print of the 1972 restoration by film historian and author Arthur Lennig. The musical accompaniment is from Sigmund Romberg's 1922 score, performed by Rodney Sauer. Among the extras on the disc is Patrick Montgomery's 90 minute documentary on Von Stroheim, "The Man You Loved To Hate."
The "Foolish Wives" DVD is an important addition to any library or collection because it not only offers an important movie in the filmmaker's career, it also features a documentary that allows newcomers to learn more about Von Stroheim and his work. It is the perfect DVD package to help anyone interested in film history to better appreciate one of early cinema's most interesting and indulgent practitioners.