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With: Gloria Swanson, Walter Byron, Seena Owen
Written by: Erich von Stroheim, Marian Ainslee
Directed by: Erich von Stroheim
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 97
Date: 01/01/1929

Queen Kelly (1929)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Von' Songs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For Queen Kelly (1929, Kino, $29.95), box office star Gloria Swanson hired Von Stroheim to direct her in what would have been a hugely ambitious five-hour epic about a convent girl who falls in love with an English prince and is sent to work in an African brothel.

Of course, Swanson fired the director midway through production and this 100-minute release is the final result of their work. Certain scenes are filled in with stills, and the love affair with the prince is played up perhaps more than it ought to be, but it's still a fascinating work, filled with unique Von Stroheim touches, specifically the mad queen, who walks around naked with a fluffy white cat clutched to her chest. It's also Von Stroheim's most overtly beautiful production, with luminous, glossy cinematography befitting a star such as Swanson. Billy Wilder used a clip of this film in his 1950 Sunset Boulevard, which starred both Swanson and Von Stroheim.

The new DVD contains a useful commentary track by biographer Richard Koszarski and the strangely abrupt ending that Swanson put together for her version of the film. Other extras include a video introduction by Swanson, outtake footage, a 1950s television performance by Von Stroheim and a dossier on Stroheim's earlier film, Merry-Go-Round, from which he was fired.

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