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I seem to be in the minority in considering this 1928 extravaganza by the great Erich von Stroheim less than a masterpiece. To my taste it's a bit obvious and redundant in spots, and it doesn't compare with Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives, Greed, The Merry Widow, or Queen Kelly. But the film is exceptionally subtle and witty at times (one highlight is an early sequence in two-strip Technicolor), and even minor Stroheim is considerably better than the major work of most other filmmakers. The director, himself one of the greatest of all silent actors, plays the lead, a flirtatious prince who agrees to marry for money to help his parents (the inimitable ZaSu Pitts is the expectant bride, a crippled heiress) but falls in love with a poor woman (Fay Wray) shortly before the wedding. At great expense Stroheim re-created the decadent splendor of the Vienna of his youth, then saw his film mutilated by Paramount--the first half of the story is all that survives today in any form. The running time is 113 minutes, though screenings of silent films often vary in length according to projection speed; Jay Warren will provide live organ accompaniment. For a veritable course in late Stroheim, check this out and then hightail it over to the Music Box on Saturday or Sunday morning for Stroheim's last silent film, the never completed and even more crazy, opulent, and perversely erotic Queen Kelly (see separate listing). Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence, Chicago, Friday, July 28, 8:00, 773-777-9438. --Jonathan Rosenbaum

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