Bearing even less resemblance, as it stands, to Stroheim's original conception than did his earlier masterpieces, this tale of an innocent convent girl courted and corrupted by a dissolute prince engaged to a Ruritanian queen, simultaneously delights and frustrates. Transforming the hackneyed melodramatic plot into an audaciously slow spectacle of lush decor and delirious lighting, the Von conjured up a sensuously detailed world of misguided romanticism and seductive cynicism, where monarchs wield jealous whips and kindness conceals cunning strategies. But with only half the script filmed, and a dissatisfying ending tacked on by other, insensitive hands, Swanson's original 1931 release inevitably betrayed the balance, epic scope and tragic irony one would expect from this giant among film-makers. The present version, deleting the tacked on 'suicide' ending, incorporates the two edited reels of African footage (on which Stroheim was working when he was fired) which were rediscovered in 1965, fleshed out by the use of titles and stills. The result is a profoundly flawed vision of what might have been, but riveting none the less.