The main feature on this disc is the 1922 film 'Foolish Wives,' whose plot has already been outlined by other reviewers. Looking at it in its present restored form, it seems as though it's more important historically than as entertainment. At almost two hours long, this is one of the longest silent films you'll probably ever hope to see. I love long movies and books, but length doesn't always make it automatically a masterpiece. 'Ben-Hur' and 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,' for example, are also quite long silents, yet they go by in the blink of an eye, almost, because they're so compelling and well-developed. 'Foolish Wives' is kind of boring, and certainly not an ideal first silent for anyone. It would probably just confirm many of the stereotypes that the average non-fan has about the lost artform. It didn't really get terribly interesting for me until it was more than halfway over.
Judging from the plentiful extras and the great audio commentary, I get the feeling that this actually started out as a great movie, with wonderful characters and a deep complex involving plot. We're even told how a lot of the reviewers who saw it in its original massive length, before all of the cutting began, loved it and felt it were one of the best movies they'd ever seen. However, due to all of the cutting that took place (partly because of the over the top censorship of the time and partly because, sadly, most people then, as now, just didn't want to see a movie that was like 7 hours long), we're left with a movie that's a mere shell of its former self. The plot now seems little more than paper-thin, and becomes rather boring when stretched out to nearly two hours. There's also not much character development (with the obvious exception of von Stroheim's leading role as the creepy villainous sex-crazed count), so we don't really care too much about these characters or what happens to them. Due to all of the cutting, a lot of these characters disappear for long stretches at a time, which makes it harder to remember just who they're supposed to be and what importance they serve to the plot by the time they reappear, such as Ventucci and his retarded daughter and the soldier (played by the original Harrison Ford) whose seemingly rude behavior towards Mrs. Hughes (does she even have a first name in the original script?) we later find out the crystal-clear reason for. Minus all of these well-developed subplots and all of these apparently originally wonderfully-developed characters, both major and minor, we're left with something that's just not all that interesting or compelling. It just comes across as uneven in its current much-shortened form. There's also the problem in the character of Andrew Hughes, since halfway through filming Rudolph Christians, the actor playing him, died, and thus he was unable to appear in crucial later scenes, or else had to appear in those later scenes via pirated footage from earlier films he'd been in and by shooting an entirely different actor from the back. However, I won't complain too much about the inconsistent print quality, knowing that it was assembled from many different sources in order to get the most complete and longest cut that was still possible, and that some of these reels of film were more badly damaged than others. We're lucky to have as much of it as we still do, even though it's far far shorter than it was originally, so it's kind of unfair and unrealistic to complain about how the pictorial quality isn't crystal clear throughout.
In addition to numerous extras (such as a photo gallery, audio interviews, press materials, censored scenes, and a memo from von Stroheim), there's a 1979 documentary on von Stroheim. This is a really informative and fascinating look at one of the most creative and fascinating people of the last century. However, it does seem a bit dated because of the age; none of the basic facts have changed, but perhaps a more current documentary might provide some more recent insights into his life and work, as well as new discoveries that have been made in the years since. Most of the clips from his silents are also in bad condition, and many of them seem to be shown at the wrong speed, which doesn't really improve the image of silent film in the eyes of most viewers.
Overall, it's not one I'd recommend getting to someone just getting into silent film or the works of von Stroheim, but for someone much further along in that area, I would recommend it on the basis of the historical importance of 'Foolish Wives,' the incredible extras, the great documentary, and the wonderful audio commentary (which helps to make clear and explains some things that you might not know or pick up on by just watching the film by itself).