Before Chinatown, before There Will Be Blood, there was this: the grand-daddy of all Californian capitalist sagas, one of cinema’s very first tales of the dehumanising influence of money.
The plot follows a working-class San Francisco dentist, John “Mac” McTeague, whose fiancée Trina wins the lottery. The win unleashes a series of repressed resentments and dark, uncontrollable drives leading to betrayal, murder, and a scorchingly nihilistic ending (shot, famously, on location in Death Valley in 120 degree heat with the cameras wrapped in iced towels).
Though the film as it exists today is a mere sliver of its original 9-hour running time, it is still heralded (by Christopher Nolan, among others) as one of the very finest ever made. Of many stunning, disturbing sequences watch for the one where our happy lottery winner literally gets into bed with her money, caressing her naked body with coins... US 1924 Dir Erich von Stroheim 131 min 35mm presentation