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. This edition presents the film in its gorgeous tinted Austrian release version, Die Rache der Berge (Blinde Ehemänner) / The Revenge of the Mountains (Blind Husbands), featuring German language intertitles. This print of the film is the longest and oldest version available today. Extras include additional materials from the Austrian Film Museum's Stroheim collection as well as a ROM section with materials on Stroheim and the film.
Blind Husbands / Die Rache der Berge (Blinde Ehemänner) - USA 1919 - Directed and wrotten by: Erich von Stroheim, based on his story "The Pinnacle" - Cinematography by: Ben F. Reynolds - Cast: Sam de Grasse, Francelia Billington, Erich von Stroheim, Fay Holderness, Richard Cummings - Produced by: Universal-Jewel Production de Luxe - Première: October 21, 1919
About the film
Two differences between this Austrian version and the generally available American version are immediately obvious: they differ both in their length and in the language of the intertitles. The American version is only 1,883 metres long - at 18 frames per second a difference of some 7 minutes to the Austrian version with 2,045 metres. Whereas we originally presumed only a negligible difference, resulting from the varying length of the intertitles, a direct comparison has nevertheless shown that the Austrian version differs from the American version both in the montage and in the duration of individual scenes. Yet how could it happen that the later regional distribution of a canonical US silent film was longer than the "original version"?
The prevalent American version of Blind Husbands does not correspond to the version shown at the premiere of 1919. This little-known fact was already published by Richard Koszarski in 1983. The film was re-released by Universal Pictures in 1924, in a version that was 1,365 feet (416 metres) shorter. At 18 frames per second, this amounts to a time difference of 20 minutes! "Titles were altered, snippets of action removed and at least one major scene taken out entirely, where von Steuben and Margaret visit a small local chapel." (Koszarski)
From the present state of research we can assume that all the known American copies of the film derive from this shortened re-release version, a copy of which Universal donated to the Museum of Modern Art in 1941. According to Koszarski the original negative of the film was destroyed sometime between 1956 and 1961 and has therefore been irretrievably lost. This information casts an interesting light on the Austrian version, which can be dated to the period between the summer of 1921 and the winter of 1922. Furthermore, the copy is some 200 metres longer than the US version of 1924. If one follows the details given by Richard Koszarski and Arthur Lennig, this means that, as far as both its date and its length are concerned, the Austrian version lies almost exactly in the middle between the (lost) version shown at the premiere and the re-released one.A large part of the additional length of the film can be traced to cuts that were made to the 1924 version in almost every shot. Koszarski describes how the beginning and the end of scenes were trimmed, in order to "speed up" the film. However, more exciting was the discovery that the Austrian version contains shots that are missing in the American one - shots/countershots, intertitles - and furthermore shows differences in its montage (i.e. the placing of the individual shots within a sequence). All this indicates that Die Rache der Berge constitutes the oldest and most completely preserved material of the film.
- Blind Husbands (Die Rache der Berge) 1919 (1921), 99'
- Music score by Günter A. Buchwald
- Chapter selection
- Comparison of Versions 2006, 10'
- American Prologue & Credits 1919, 1'
- Stroheim in Vienna 1948, 1'
- Film-related materials and lobby cards
- 20 page booklet with articles by Alexandra Seibel, Paolo Caneppele and Michael Loebenstein
- DVD ROM section (PC + Macintosh) with the following PDF files:
Researches on the Austrian version of Blind Husbands (6 Seiten)
Comparison of the English and the Austrian intertitles (10 Seiten)
German and American Press reviews 1919-1922 (30 Seiten)
The program of the Vienna cinemas in January - March 1922 (15 Seiten, only in German)
Reports about Erich von Stroheim visiting Vienna in July 1948 (6 pages, only in German)
Aleksandr Derjabin: Erich Stroheim; Moscow 1927 (8 pages, only in German)
Jon Barna: Erich von Stroheim; Vienna 1966 (120 pages, only in German)
Frame enlargements for downloading
DVD edited by: Österreichisches Filmmuseum
DVD authoring: Ralph Schermbach
DVD supervision: Michael Loebenstein
First edition October 2006, Second edition June 2007, Third edition August 2011