Foolish Wives - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Foolish Wives Reviews

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November 23, 2016
good silent vehicle for von stroheim
December 3, 2014
I just don't care less about how the duke seduced the foolish women.
½ September 27, 2014
Slow paced, overly long, and joyless, I admire its effort but most of the time there's nothing interesting about Foolish Wives.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2014
This drama was a third feature silent film written and directed by Erich von Stroheim. Although uncredited, Irving Thalberg, aged 22, was in charge of production. Thalberg would later become one of the most famous studio heads of all time. The drama features von Stroheim, Rudolph Christians, Miss DuPont and Maude George. When released in 1922, the film was the most expensive film made at that time, and billed by Universal Studios as the "first million-dollar movie" to come out of Hollywood. Originally, von Stroheim intended the film to run anywhere between 6 and 10 hours, and be shown over two evenings, but Universal executives opposed this idea. The studio bosses cut the film drastically before the release date.

In 2008, Foolish Wives was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and luckily I had a chance to see a new version, not the one which is widely distributed over 40 years! Originally the version had 21 reels when it was completed. Studio made a version of seven reels only. The copy I had was assembled for The American Film Institute by Arthur Lennig, and represents an attempt to reconstruct the film to a more authentic version. The original titles have been restored and much of the footage eliminated over the years has been replaced. Although still fragmentary, this is the most complete form in which this film is known to exist today. Length of this footage is 2h 23 min.

This outstanding silent drama tells the story of a man who names himself Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin (von Stroheim) in order to seduce rich women and extort money from them. He has set up his base in Monte Carlo and his partners in crime (and possible lovers) are his "cousins": faux-Princess Vera Petchnikoff (Busch) and faux-Her Highness Olga Petchnikoff (George). Count Karamzin begins his latest scam on the young and attractive wife of the middle aged American envoy, Helen Hughes (Miss Dupont), even though her husband is nearby.

The film began director von Stroheim's reputation as a "manic perfectionist," a huge spender, and as a director that needed to be brought under control. During filming, the cost of the film soared. While the budget was slated at $250,000, according to von Stroheim, it ended at $750,000. At the end, Universal Studio, estimated the cost at $1,225,000. During the production, Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal, appointed 20-year-old Irving Thalberg as head of the studio. Right away the new studio chief started clashing with von Stroheim, whom he considered a spendthrift. Actor Rudolph Christians died on February 7, 1921 from pneumonia during production, and his part was taken over by Robert Edeson. Edeson only showed his back to the camera so as not to clash with shot footage of Christians that was still to be used in the completed film, but it was noticeable because their hair colour was completely different, and for me that was the only annoying part.

The start of the movie is with the perfect iris shot, and this is no ordinary 'fade into' effect, but an entrancing reinforcement of the sinister, insular and constrictive nature of the milieu Von Stroheim is about to introduce us to... If you love details, villains which could be a part of everyday life, lavish lifestyle, and you are ready to see the egotism of a genius running amok (that made him prominently feature a character reading a novel called Foolish Wives, credited to Erich Von Stroheim) - find this extended copy, and have fun!
September 9, 2013
Erich von Stroheim was a gung-ho granddaddy of cinema, capturing the smallest detail, the faintest facial expressions, and the gigantic, imposing forces that the turn of the century faced in incredulity. Foolish Wives is a breathtaking work, far beyond it's time not only due to its licentious material, but also because of Stroheim's grand vision and his virtuoso performance as the manipulative phony officer, Count Karamzin.
½ March 21, 2012
Von Stroheim really hams it up as a con artist posing as an officer. It's an entertaining film, though, thanks to his work in front of and behind the camera.
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2011
An okay con artist woman seducer type movie. And director von Stroheim plays the leading role too. The biggest problem is that it's way too long. That really annoyed me, it didn't need to be over 2 hours. The costumes and sets are realistic, though, and it was interesting to read that von Stroheim insisted on not using anything fake.
Super Reviewer
½ April 18, 2011
the first million dollar film in hollywood history and every bit of it is up there on the screen. von stroheim insisted on real champagne and caviar and french underthings for the ladies so as to feel more like true aristocrats. the monte carlo set built on a studio backlot is just incredible. all this goes a long way toward explaining his aborted directing career. editing from 6 hrs down to 2.5 caused some pacing issues i think but, spread over 2 nights, this was an amazing experience. now i want to find a coherent version of greed! all hail the mad genius
½ February 27, 2011
Quite a bore if you ask me. It took me almost three days to finish watching Foolish Wives (once because I got bored and decided I wanted to watch something more action packed and once because the DVD was scratched and I had to get another one). Foolish Wives sets are great and the story flows well but overly descriptive readers weigh down the pace of the movie and keeps Foolish Wives for trapping viewers with the story of deceit and greed.
½ December 3, 2010
A story about a man extorting money from naive women.(12)
½ October 13, 2010
Foolish Wives has a structure that will be very familiar to viewers who have seen previous silent films: it's scenes are long and lumbering, the glances made by the actors are similar. This is a film that could have had an interesting story and likable (or hate-able) characters, but proceeded in such a drawn-out fashion that I couldn't keep attention after the first half, and I watched the second half at double-speed. This actually helped greatly with the pacing, ironically enough. The ending is actually quite good, but you have to pound through 100 minutes before you get to that point. This film is for hardcore silent film lovers only. Edit: Coming back to this film after several months, I lowered the score from 40% to 30%. Even if you like silent films, this is simply not a good film. I haven't seen it yet, but I've been told the director's "Greed" is a much better film.
May 5, 2010
Yay, it cost $1,000,000 to make. And?
½ February 26, 2010
One of the best features from unsung filmmaking genius Erich Von Stroheim!
½ November 18, 2009
Von Stroheim really hams it up as a con artist posing as an officer. It's an entertaining film, though, thanks to his work in front of and behind the camera.
½ September 23, 2009
I appreciated the composition of the shots and their sheer variety. Indoors, outdoors, from above, from below, close-ups, and wide angles. Further, von Stroheim's portrayal of the Russian count is wonderful in its pomposity and bravado, highlighted by the contrast with the bland portrayal of the American wife he means to seduce. Overall though, the plot is the weak link here, as its plods along over 2 hours. The reported short and cut version would likely be an improvement in this case.
½ September 23, 2009
As the director, Stroheim comes up with a few pretty good shots. As an actor, he's terrific as the despicable Count Karamzin. But the plot is really quite dull and slow-moving. At nearly two and a half hours, it tried my patience. It's also rather simplistic storytelling... bad guy screws over nice people, gets what he deserves. I know it's unfair to boil a movie down to a trite one-liner like that, but there's really not much more to it than that.
May 22, 2009
Unforgetable movie. The scenes with the man without arms are perhaps some of the best I've ever seen.
February 2, 2009
Excellent film! Von Stroheim of course masters perfectly his usual character of heartbreaking officer, but this time over adds a real dose of absurd in it. I mean being a fake broke aristocrat in exile is quite a good character. Unlike the very similar "Blind Husband" the characters are not rigid archetypes but rather humans full of flaws and aspirations and frustration.

Some scenes really deserve to be remembered. And last but not least his view of the American spirit is highly entertaining.
January 11, 2009
Not my favorite silent film but von Stroheim's ways are quite impressive and impossible to deny. A down and dirty film that swings for the gutter, however there are certain loose ends I'm sure were in the original 6Hr cut but... yeah those are long gone.
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