Book Review- The Complete Greed

There isn’t too much I can personally say about The Complete Greed that hasn’t already been said by those cited on the back cover of the book, namely: The New Yorker, Fritz Lang, Take One, Sight & Sound, Maurice Bessy (at the time director of The Cannes Film Festival), Henri Langlois (at the time curator of the Cinémathèque Française), Peter Bogdanovich and Jean Renoir.

However, one unique perspective is that I, unlike all those cited on the back of the book, have yet to see the extant, eviscerated version of Greed. I remember my interest being piqued in film school but also accompanied by a built-in reticence to see something that was less than von Stroheim’s grandiose vision for it. That combined with the fact that it is currently only available via re-seller on VHS in the US has put it low on the priority list for me. However, when I was on Amazon one day and saw that a used, though in great shape, copy of this book was available for the staggeringly low price of $4 I had to jump on it.

After having read it I must say it is quite a feat indeed. Having never seen the film I now feel like I have and what’s more it conveyed both the wonder of the story as it exists and the agony of the seeing the version the world has been robbed of.

The more complete cuts of Greed are among the holiest of holy grails in the film world. I now have a sense as to why that is and add that to a growing list of cuts I wish to see unearthed.

Beware of “Composite” Serials

In my previous post I asserted that, for the most part, I want this blog to be a positive place and I stand by that so please take this more as consumer advocacy than film nerd complaining, though in truth it is a little of both.

Now a little bit of background: I absolutely positively love the serial format, aka chapter plays, aka cliffhangers. Believe me when I say they are a sort of cinematic narcotic. It’s the simplest kind of story-telling done in the best possible way and more often or not they compel you to keep going and leave you wanting more. What’s not to love? I will admit that I have not seen as many as I’d like to because it is kind of a leap of faith to start one. Twelve to fifteen episodes at 20 minutes a pop is a larger commitment than you realize.

However, those I’ve seen I’ve greatly enjoyed for one reason for another. Furthermore their cinematic significance is not confined to being a footnote of a bygone era but also have left a lasting legacy. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both admit to owing a debt to the serial format in constructing both Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Now the point of all this backstory is so that you might better comprehend my anger when I recount the following tale as I learned of an industry practice the hard way. Whether they were created for a theatrical re-release, television or video so-called “theatrical” cuts of serials exist. Meaning, that tidy, condensed, at times confusing versions of stories intended to be much longer exist.

This is what I fell victim to. I had a complete version of Blake of Scotland Yard on VHS. I used a DVD/VHS deck to transfer it to a DVD. That deck broke and nothing else plays the DVDs. This is a situation I am still trying to to remedy. So cut to the present: I am hankering for serials anew, more specifically my favorites. I see Blake of Scotland Yard on Amazon and order it. Now I got two more serials there which are whole but this one is a so-called “composite.” Something I am just learning about and passing along.

So I may or may not watch this confounding version which is 73 minutes long as opposed to 303, (over four times shorter!) but I will not enjoy it.

So, buyer beware: before renting or buying a serial I implore you to check the running time they typically should run well in excess of three hours, so anything in typical feature length range is cut.

Happy viewing.