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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Foolish Wives [Blu-ray]

 

(Erich von Stroheim , 1922)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Universal Film Manufacturing Company

Video: Kino Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:23:39.527

Disc Size: 47,184,066,995 bytes

Feature Size: 29,470,032,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.97 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 30th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps

 

Intertitles:

English

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary by von Stroheim biographer Richard Koszarski

Original 1922 Sigmund Romberg score, performed by Rodney Sauer
•The Man You Loved to Hate (1979, 1:30:08) Patrick Montgomery's feature-length documentary profile of Erich von Stroheim, written by Richard Koszarski, and newly remastered in HD from the original negative
• Audio interview clips of Valerie von Stroheim (4:58) and Paul Kohner (5:06)
• New York Censor Board cuts (3:45)
• 32-image Photo gallery

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: As artistically brilliant as it is gleefully perverse, Foolish Wives is Erich von Stroheim's epic-scale account of an American diplomat's wife (Miss Dupont) who falls under the spell of a phony Russian Count (von Stroheim). With his trademark eye for visual metaphor and gritty detail, von Stroheim infuses the artistocratic splendor of Monte Carlo (rebuilt in all its majesty on the Universal backlot) with an air of moral depravity. The result is a Grimm's fairy tale romance that is no less fascinating today than it was 80 years ago.

 

 

The Film:

Actor/ writer/ director Erich Von Stroheim stars as a fraudulent count, living high on the hog in Monte Carlo. He supports himself by extorting huge sums of money from silly married ladies who are dumb enough to fall for his romantic charms. Von Stroheim's partners in crime, phony princesses Mae Busch and Maud George, live in a state of perpetual depravity with the count in a huge mansion. Their latest victim, played by an actress who insisted upon being billed as Miss DuPont, is the wife of an American financier. Von Stroheim's attempted seduction of this particular foolish wife is thwarted at every turn, and the count ultimately gets his comeuppance.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The first full-scale working-out of Stroheim's explorations of the ground between high society manners and terminal squalor and depravity. The plot centres on the sexual and criminal activities of Count Karamzin (Stroheim). The sumptuous visual style continually invites the viewer to indulge Karamzin's fantasies, only to undercut them with 'real life' details designed to shake the whole edifice.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Little more than half of Erich von Stroheim's 1921 film survives as he designed it, yet its epic view of postwar European decadence is still staggering. Stroheim stars as a bogus count plying the wealthy widow trade in Monte Carlo (actually a mammoth set built on the Universal lot, and equipped down to the last detail); when he seduces an American millionairess, her husband challenges him to a duel, and the count takes advantage of his last night on earth to rape the mentally retarded girl who's been placed in his charge. All of this is carried out in the name of high “realism,” yet Stroheim's compulsions far outstrip the merely naturalistic.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Reader located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Erich Stroheim's third feature, Foolish Wives, was twenty-one reels in length when it was completed in 1921. The Studio eliminated one third of the film before the initial release, and this abridged version was completely re-titled and reduced by half its length to seven reels for a subsequent re-issue. For more than 40 years the film was seen only in its shortest form. The present copy assembled for The American Film Institute by Authro Lenning, represents an attempt to reconstruct the film to a more authentic version, The original titles have been restored and much of the footage eliminate over the years has been replaced. Although still fragmentary, this is the most complete form in which Foolish Wives is know to exist today. Materials for the reconstruction were obtained from The Museum of Modern Art, The British Film Institute, The Library of Congress, Universal Pictures, The Eastin-Phelan Corporation, and Herman G. Weinberg. The project was made possible by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

Foolish Wives on Blu-ray from Kino is, like the older DVD, has many inconsistencies in the image.  No fault of the transfer, the film was pieced together (see above) to give the best representation of the original.  Hence we have plenty of damage and imperfect visuals. This is dual-layered and, more than 90-years old, one of the earliest classic brought to hi-def disc. It's hard to tell whether there was been digitization or simply the limitations of the source. Some of the damage is actually accentuated by the high resolution but I was still very appreciative of seeing it with the more-layered contrast bringing up superior detail in comparison to the SD. Of course, some scenes look exceptionally good, tighter, less-damage and revealing true textures. It's pretty hard to complain knowing the age and history but Silent Era fans will easily recognize the benefits of the the Blu-ray presentation and, hopefully, embrace the film to an even higher degree.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

We get a linear PCM mono track at 1536 kbps of the original 1922 Sigmund Romberg score, performed by Rodney Sauer. It sounds clean, not particularly robust (which is more suitable to the film) and its great to have this similar to its origins. The intertitles are in English - resembling the original. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

We get a lot of what was on Kino's 2003 DVD (Deluxe Collector's Edition) including the excellent audio commentary by von Stroheim biographer Richard Koszarski (Von - The Life and Films of Erich Von Stroheim.) Significant is the 1.5 hour documentary The Man You Loved to Hate from 1979 (also coupled with the last DVD). Patrick Montgomery's feature-length documentary profile of Erich von Stroheim, was written by Koszarski. Uncompromising and rigid, Stroheim battled the studio system for control over his films. We get two brief audio interview clips from von Stroheims's wife Valerie (4:58) and Paul Kohner (5:06). Included are the New York Censor Board cuts and a 32-image photo gallery.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Foolish Wives in 1080P - along with the extras - is an essential. This is important film history and we can now own the most complete version... on Blu-ray. Wow. Strongly recommended!

Gary Tooze

July 17th, 2013

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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