Foolish Wives | Chicago Reader

Foolish Wives

Little more than half of Erich von Stroheim's 1921 film survives as he designed it, yet its epic view of postwar European decadence is still staggering. Stroheim stars as a bogus count plying the wealthy widow trade in Monte Carlo (actually a mammoth set built on the Universal lot, and equipped down to the last detail); when he seduces an American millionairess, her husband challenges him to a duel, and the count takes advantage of his last night on earth to rape the mentally retarded girl who's been placed in his charge. All of this is carried out in the name of high “realism,” yet Stroheim's compulsions far outstrip the merely naturalistic. With Maud George, Mae Busch, and an actress billed as “Miss Dupont.” 117 min.

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