TIME CAPSULE REVIEW

[In the interest of upping the frequency of posts here at Wipe, we’ve decided to try our hand at writing shorter, “capsule” reviews for your daily (or semi-daily) reading pleasure. Below you’ll find the first of these “Time Capsule Reviews” (note: punny name subject to change; it just seemed appropriate for this particular posting). In the meantime, we’ll continue to work on our longer reviews and other exciting features, to be posted throughout the week. We ask for your patience and undying loyalty as the Wipe team tinkers with the format of the site. Thanks!]

Blind Husbands (1919)

Director: Erich von Stroheim

Screenplay: Erich von Stroheim

The brilliant and notoriously difficult Erich von Stroheim debuted as a director/screenwriter with this potently erotic yet severely moral silent feature. Always a superb actor (probably best known for his supporting roles in La grande illusion [1939] and Sunset Boulevard [1950]), Stroheim himself co-stars in Blind Husbands as a libidinous Austrian cavalry officer with designs on seducing the wife (Francelia Billington) of a neglectful doctor (Sam De Grasse) during a vacation in the Dolemite mountains. The film ostensibly concerns the doctor’s moral (and indeed sexual) duty to overcome his “blindness” to his wife’s desire to be loved. But as in his later masterpiece Greed (1924), Stroheim strikes deepest in Blind Husbands by exploring the moral and existential consequences of compulsive overreaching: hence, the film’s primary fascination lies in how the cavalry officer’s lustful, reckless appetite for women (unmistakably alluded to in his boast: “To me mountains are lifeless rocks. My pleasure has always been to master them”) binds him to a cruel, bitterly ironic fate. If that makes Blind Husbands sound self-righteous in tone, let me just say there’s something undeniably hilarious about the moral reckoning of Stroheim’s character, alone atop a mountain, driven into childish hysterics by what is apparently the judging eye of a vulture circling overhead.

-Cam

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Filed under Cam, Capsule Review, Hollywood Cinema

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