Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eng 368: Greed

The film version of McTeague was interesting, partially in the culture gap between our class in 2010 and its intended audience in 1925. To our eyes, Trina was scary looking (both with and without makeup), the acting was overdone, and the special effects were hardly special. Of course, at the time, the effects would have been well done, and Trina looked no weirder than any other actress - the strange makeup was to help accentuate their expressions, as was the overacting. These were hardly HD video cameras they were using; they were grainy, and sometimes those actors had to ACT to get the message onto the screen.
But more remarkable was the director's attempt to follow the book as closely as possible. Even with seven hours cut out of the original footage, the film follows the story far closer than any movie made these days would.
Of course, as one of nature's book-readers, I am usually the one who likes to stickle about how the movie was "nothing like the book! They completely ruined it!" The new Beowulf? Horrifying! That they would take a bit character like Grendel's mother (she doesn't even have a name, for ctying out loud! Everyone had a name in that book!) and make her one of the driving characters simply so she can be played by a naked Angelina Jolie? Abominable! Although the dragon fight was pretty cool. And The Count of Monte Cristo? All wrong! The Last of the Mohicans? Butchered (no pun intended)!
So I can appreciate a director wanting to follow the film exactly. It's one of Hollywood's jokes that a book that is adapted to film tends to end up nothing like the author's creation - there is a reason some authors will refuse to sell their book rights to Hollywood.
I can also appreciate not having to sit through 9 hours of dialogue-less film. It's a shame that the extra footage was destroyed, of course, but thank God for editors, right? Too bad they didn't have mini-series back then. Greed would have been perfect for that.


  1. I was also thinking how it would be possible to sit through nine hours of any kind of performance?! I cannot imagine either. I tried thinking that maybe it would be like listening to an audio book, but even nine hours of an audio book would be excruciating! I do think the book is a better medium to experience the story of McTeague, the movie Trina looked nothing like the one in my head, but I think it was a good effort.

  2. It is very interesting how you analyzed Trina and her looks. I saw her as being casted wrongly but you understood that for that time period, she would have looked very normal. I also failed to recognize that the ridiculous eye makeup was for the purpose of accentuating her expression. Great analysis!
    Amanda Renslow

  3. I'd like to have seen the long version, of course, but your point about editors is true, Fawn: how many more minutes of people gnawing on calves' heads did von Stroheim include, and how many more did we need to see?

  4. I wonder what a modern version of Greed would be like. I assume they would muck it all up (like you mention they tend to do!), but I think that the story itself remains compelling even today.
    Ruth Nelson