Could We Hack 40 Reels Of Greed?
There's nothing like Greed to lead you back to books after watching. This time, I consulted Arthur Lenig and Herman Weinberg, who dealt exhaustive with Erich von Stroheim's doomed masterpiece. But would forty-two reels, another four or so hours, amount to that? It was accepted for decades that (uncut) Greed would rank among greatest, if not #1 of all time, but days of it turning up on critic polls are over, and I've come to wonder how many, even among serious cineastes, are bothering even to watch. Think of mini-series playing television "complete" in the 70/80's, those long tortured hours with commercials besides. Networks even padded big-name theatricals with unused footage to sell additional hours of advertising --- Superman, Earthquake, plenty more. All of Greed might fit nicely over four nights of NBC primetime, and imagine it going dusk to dawn on TCM. Stroheim had rigid system of the 20's to face. Theatres were only in a second decade of coping with features, and here comes EvS with nine-hours. No wonder the town thought he was nuts.
I went over the Weinberg summary of cut stuff, accompanied by stills. A lot of it involved support characters. How engaging would that have been? Tough enough sticking with Greed's downer of a principal narrative. Human nature being what it is, there's nothing we crave like something we're told we can't see, but would all of Greed please, even if the whole kit and caboodle turned up? What I saw on TCM was the release version Thalberg and dicers turned out, as opposed to mix of footage with dancing stills that bloated Greed to longer length and called it restoration. Not to knock that effort, but give me stills or a movie, not both at once. Greed is good where mood is right (as in utterly depressed or suicidal), but who'll pull it down for repeat runs or party placement? I'll be surprised if Warners goes for Blu-Ray release what with Greed's diminished cache. There just aren't enough champions left for it today.