I admire what Schmidlin and company accomplished with their version of "Greed" and expect that it will surface someday on DVD. It's hard to regard even the "reconstructed" version, however, as anything more than a fragment of the original film. One can't help watch it with an admiration that is, at best, bittersweet.
Indeed. There's so much footage missing from the reconstruction that it can be a bit of a chore to sit through. It's more like somebody making a meticulous argument for Greed
as a supreme masterpiece than a masterpiece in its own right. The argument is, however, completely convincing.
What the process of watching the still-inserts on Schmidlins GREED amounts to is torture, not entertainment. What you realize is that everything (well, maybe not everything
) that was excised from the film was all of the extreme filmmaking which the studio thought was just absolute insanity (the story of the junkman, McTeague's dad, etc), filled with extremely exaggerated low-key lighting & bizarre makeups/characters which was as bizarre if not even more bizarre than anything that the Germans had done/were doing in their most extreme expressionist works i e Leni (WAXWORKS, BACKSTAIRS, w Jessner), Weine in CALIGARI or RASKALNIKOV or GENUINE, or Murnau & Freund's work in LAST LAUGH. I don't mean simply in exaggerated use of light & shadow but in acting, the grostequerie which Leni was so fond of, of bringing out the moster, the hunchback, the mountebank which lurks in the minds of all men.
It's this mind-blowng feast, a veritable fantasmagoria of experimentation which was excised by eliminating these expressive story lines... leaving only the under-developed core story for us to see to day, which reads as straight location melodrama, albeit uncompromising and masterful even today. It was never meant to be seen in this fashion, with all expression & meaning & contrasting story lines removed... thus von's heartbreaking quote which kicks off the double-tape VHS Schmidlin/Warner release that I still refer to regularly, the quote which runs something like:
"Even if I spoke to you uninterrupted for two weeks, I couldn't begin to express the heartbreak I felt in seeing my life's work being torn to pieces before my very eyes."
The lack of imagination of the studios in this country is expressed by the fact that the film couldn't be brought down from 10 to even perhaps SIX hours, and turn it into the two part epic which been common in Germany via Lang (SPINNE, MABUSE SPIELER, and the then-in-the-works NIBEL), as well as Joe May (INDIAN TOMB), or leaving the 10 hr cut as is and releasing it as a multi-part serial as was common in Germany & France.