Blind Husbands

Eric Von Stroheim

T. It.: Mariti Ciechi; T. Ted.: Die Rache Der Berge; Sog.: Dal Racconto “The Pinacle” Di Erich Von Stroheim; Scen.: Erich Von Stroheim, Lilian Ducey; F.: Ben F. Reynolds; Mo.: Frank Lawrence; Scgf.: Erich Von Stroheim; Int.: Erich Von Stroheim (Tenente Eric Von Steuben), Sam Degrasse (Dott. Armstrong, Il Marito), Francelia Billington (Sig.Ra Armstrong), T.H. Gibson-Gowland (Sepp, Guida Alpina), Fay Holderness (Cameriera), Ruby Kendrick, Valerie Germonprez, Jack Perrin, Ruby Kendrick; Prod.: Carl Laemmle, Erich Von Stroheim Per Universal Film Mfg Co; Pri. Pro.: Washington, 19 Ottobre 1919; 35mm. L. 2045 M. D.: 90′ A 20 F/S. Tinted.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Erich von Stroheim’s directorial debut Blind Husbands is considered a masterpiece of American silent cinema. Set in the alpine scenery of South Tyrol it still baffles its audiences through its precise visual language and its moral ambiguity. Blind Husbands premiered on 19 October 1919 at the Rialto Theatre in Washington and instantly became an absolute suc­cess with both the press and the public. The reviews attest to an almost unanimous enthusiasm. For the film industry journal “Variety” it was simply a quite “extraordinary film”, wholly com- parable with masterpieces of literature such as those by Arthur Schnitzler. Laurence Reid, the critic of “Motion Picture News” knew Stroheim as an exquisite Prussian villain from films like Griffith’s Hearts of the World (1918) and Allen Holubar’s The Heart of Humanity (1918) and could not contain his surprise that ‘The Hun’ – Stroheim’s trade name as an actor – was also a masterful storyteller and competent director: Stroheim’s Blind Husbands did not have to fight desperately for heroes and great dramatic highlights – they emerged quite spontaneously. His work “resembles a slice of life”, enthused Reid about Stroheim’s realism. Even the “New York Times” admired above all Stroheim’s ability to convey a story visually, and saw a new star rising on Hollywood’s horizon: “If the promise that is borne of his first performance as a director is fulfilled, the screen will be greatly enriched”. Blind Husbands regularly played to full houses on Broadway. In 1924 an edited, shorter version of the film was re-released and subsequently preserved by the Museum of Modern Art Film Department. This screening presents the film in its beautifully tinted Austrian release version, Die Rache der Berge – Blinde Ehemanner, featuring German language intertitles. This print derives from a nitrate distribution copy preserved by the Osterreichisches Filmmuseum in 1982 and is the longest and oldest version available today. Produced for the European market from the original camera negative its montage and the length of individual shots deviate from the universally known black & white version. The DVD of this film, produced by the Osterreichisches Filmmuseum in 2006, presents additional documents on the film’s preservation, its reception by American and Austrian critics and on Stroheim’s career in general.

Paolo Caneppele, Osterreichisches Filmmuseum

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