I first saw 'Foolish Wives' in college and couldn't help but compare it to 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.' Of course 'Foolish Wives' came out back in the 1920s and was a silent film, the two films are very similar as they both deal with con artists. Director/writer/actor Erich Von Stroheim is a king in silent cinema. If any of you have ever studied silent film, you would have probably written a paper on Stroheim. His films are simply amazing, but what is most famous about Stroheim, or shall I say infamous is that most of his films suffered at the hands of studio execs. Yes, even back then, the studio corporate heads were trying to take control from the original creators.
And with Stroheim, this kind of thing happened more often than not. In fact, just using this film as an example, Stroheim made around ten hours of footage for this movie and wanted to show it over two days. But the studio disagreed and took the creative control away from him and cut it down to around two hours. As this happened with most of his films, most of the footage from his original cuts has been lost or trashed over the years. It's very sad. This release has 'Foolish Wives' running at 143 minutes, which is the longest cut we will see in our generation, unless something is uncovered in someone's basement.
It is also fun to know that this film was Hollywood's most expensive film to date back in the 20s and Hollywood went as far as to promote it as their first million dollar picture. The entire film was filmed on stages at the studio in Hollywood, where they created the look of Europe, specifically Monte Carlo. Here we follow a man who calls himself Count Vladislaw Sergius Karamzi, who is played by Stroheim himself. He has a nice villa for himself which he shares with his female "cousins" as they spend their days and evenings leading a luxuriously life of wining and dining and having fun.
However, little does anyone know that this so called Count Karamzi and his two female partners who go by Princess Vera and Her Highness Olga Petchnikoff are anything but royalty. In fact they are con artists who have been spending their time conning tourists, locals, and other people of royalty and prominence. Not only that, they run their scams with fake money in casinos and wow unsuspecting men and women of high society. Doesn't it sound a lot like 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'?
In order to gain more money and keep their cover, they entice a new American diplomat by the name of Mr. Hughes and his wife Helen, who are new to the area and are in need of friends and a guide to show them around. Since Mr. Hughes is always off doing something and completely unaware of anything his wife is doing or his surroundings, Karamzi seduces Helen constantly in order to get more money. But works about this film is that like 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels', even though these main characters are the villains, you can't help but root for them as they are full of charm, wit, and fun.
'Foolish Wives' is a great and interesting look at high society and sophistication. Maybe even showing how a low end criminal and high society are one in the same. If you're a fan of silent film, you don't want to miss this one.
'Foolish Wives' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For a movie that is over 90 years old and has been tossed around a lot, it looks pretty good. However, if you read the back of the cover, there is a little box that warns you that the restoration of this film was reconstructed from multiple sources, and that some of the images are in bad condition and that this presentation is below Blu-ray standards. Not exactly what you want to read before popping in a Blu-ray, right? At least they mention this to us.
That being said, this looked surprisingly good. Of course, there is really no sharp detail here, and there is grain all over the place, but you can tell this video was handled with love and care. There was no epic edge enhancement, nor was there a lot of digital noise reduction. However, there are tons of dirt, specs, hairs, and even dropped frames and brightness levels that go up and down throughout the entire movie. The black and white isn't always balanced as it should be, but this is the best this has ever looked, and I'm actually quite surprised this is on blu-ray.
This release comes with an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 stereo track. Yes, this is a silent film, so there is no dialogue. But what we do have is a new offering of composer Sigmund Romberg's original score, performed by Rodney Sauer. The soundtrack sounds very nice on the front speakers and always plays well with what's on screen. There were no problems with this.
'Foolish Wives' is a great film and is one of the grandest and biggest budget movies of its time. It paved the way for a lot of other similar films in the coming years. This blu-ray is the best it has ever looked, but it is far from great quality. The extras are amazing, making this Blu-ray recommended for cinema buffs.