Stroheim’s directorial debut, a very straightforward movie, with prominent mountain-climbing scenes (cuz you can take the filmmaker out of Austria, but you can’t take a love for mountain-climbing movies out of an Austrian filmmaker) along with tassels, feathers, pipes, silly hats and monocles.
The director’s grinning, monocled death’s head:
A single travelling shot at the end (at least I didn’t notice any camera movement before that). Some great edits (from 3 mountain climbers to 3 crosses), a great mirror shot, a few flashbacks. Divided into acts, which are announced by title cards that usually appear right in the middle of a conversation, weird.
Dr. Armstrong (Sam De Grasse, Prince John in the Fairbanks Robin Hood) and his pretty wife Francelia Billington are on a mountain vacation, and womanizer/fraud Stroheim tags along, plots to steal away Francelia for himself. To prove his villainy, Stroheim seduces the waitress at their inn along the way.
Hero and wife:
Armstrong sets off with his mountain buddy Silent Sepp (Gibson Gowland, star of Greed) to rescue a couple of imperiled climbers, even though this is supposed to be Armstrong’s vacation, and Stroheim makes his move, is rebuffed. But that night F. ponders how her husband pays her no attention, and when Stroheim tries it again during their climactic climb to the peak, she reconsiders. Husband responds by hurling Stroheim off the cliff.
Not even detail-oriented Stroheim could control the birds: when Francelia tries to play with this white bird, to show her playful innocence, the bird clearly wants nothing to do with her:
Francelia “sees” a happy young married couple in her mirror, while her neglectful husband lies asleep: