82 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2005
I feel like a kid in a candy store as I gaze with anticipation at an expensive DVD boxed set I just bought from Amazon: GRETA GARBO-THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION. Manufactured by Warner Home Video, this is a good purchase for vintage film lovers and a younger generation who maybe wants to just see some compelling and mesmerizing silent and sound romance. I believe Amazon is selling the set for $70, but we are talking about ELEVEN MOVIES on ten disks that individually sell for $15-$20.
It is not Garbo's entire film output-another disk could be filled with what is missing. But it has her finest films, like QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933), CAMILLE (1937), and NINOTCHKA (1939). Also included are both the English-language and rare German-language versions of ANNA CHRISTIE (both 1930-and Garbo spoke fluent German), MATA HARI (1931), the Best Picture Oscar winner GRAND HOTEL (1932), and ANNA KARENINA (1935). All of the sound films here at least include a theatrical trailer-it is fun to see how MGM promoted a given movie. GRAND HOTEL includes a new documentary, a premiere newsreel, a vintage musical short, and trailers for both this and the WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF (1945) remake. And CAMILLE includes the 1921 silent version starring Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino, a "Leo is on the Air" radio bonus, and the 1936 theatrical trailer.
As if all this were not enough for $70 (or even the $100 suggested price), we have three of the eight or so silent romantic classics Garbo made: FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1927), THE MYSTERIOUS LADY (1928), and THE TEMPTRESS (1926). Quoting from the DVD box since I have not seen these silent films recently, FLESH co-stars John Gilbert, who was Garbo's lover at the time; their love scenes, ravishingly shot in luscious B&W by William Daniels, have an awesome sexual potency. Garbo plays a woman who comes between two friends. LADY has her as a Russian spy who seduces her victims. The earliest of this trio, THE TEMPTRESS stars Garbo as a vanp who destroys men. I am not sure whether she does this intentionally, or whether men cannot resist her charms. These three silent films are studio prints with new music scores and audio commentaries by Greta Garbo biographers and/or scholars. Also included on this dual-disk are alternate endings, photo montages for all three films, and the surviving 9 minutes of the "lost" THE DIVINE WOMAN (1928).
Finally, this magnificent-looking Warner Home Video treasure (I expect nothing less from them) has a brand-new 90 minute documentary called GARBO, by British film scholar and ace restorer Kevin Brownlow. The film is narrated by Julie Christie, beautiful in her own right. GRETA GARBO: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, sight-unseen, belongs in the library of everyone who has fallen under the divine Garbo's elegant and mesmerizing spell-or is about to. I can't wait to watch this set, and I envy a younger generation about to discover Greta Garbo for the first time.
64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2005
I suppose the following remarks will make more sense to someone who's seen a number of Garbo films and responded to their particular magic. No matter how tiresome the workings of the various plots, or the sometimes ridiculous headgear, couture, coiffure, costars, mise en scene - all of this in the end counts for nothing as she cannot be defined or contained either by her moment in time or her physical surroundings. When you see her and hear her "up there," on the screen, you are in the presence of a very, very, Old Soul neither feminine or masculine but a conglomeration of elements unique unto itself. This truth is evident from that first glimpse in "Gosta Berling" right through the wreck and ruin of "Two Faced Woman." How courageous of her to allow us a look inside!
A wise old professor of mine once said that you cannot consider your education complete until you've seen what Greta Garbo does. Thats why even the weakest of her films (The Torrent? Susan Lennox? Romance?) are worth watching, and "coffee table" books are still being published (2 more this month) professing to answer why she remains an object of fascination and study. Could it be this ultimate symbol of that most superficial of epitaphs "movie star" went far beyond the expected and actually evoked something timeless and outside the traditional scope of the medium in which she practiced?
Watch these films and discover - either for the first time, or all over again. If they themselves are not worthy of repeated scrutiny, she certainly is. Garbo is soon to be 100, but I think her age is best measured in millenia.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2006
Initially I had reservations about buying WB's Garbo set, simply because it was so stratospherically priced. Fortunately, my parents must have sensed it was on my wish list, regardless of its price, and bought it for me as a gift last Christmas. I just couldn't bring myself to take it back! The quality of this set is just too overwhelming. Not only do you get at least three classic film masterpieces (Camille, Queen Christina, and Flesh and the Devil), but also a whole selection of good Garbo films, ranging from obscure to highly popular. Mata Hari has always been a Garbo classic, even if it's not a masterpiece. Anna Christie was based on a great play and, although the production is stagy, the excellence of the story shines through. Anna Karenina is one of the best films in the lot--the photography alone is astonishingly beautiful. Ninotchka was an entertaining comedy, but probably my least favorite Garbo film. Grand Hotel speaks for itself as an enduring cinema legend, as do Camille, Queen Christina, and Flesh and the Devil. What was Garbo's best film? It's a toss-up between these three timeless titles. It's also nice to have two very rare silents: The Temptress and The Mysterious Lady, even if these films are slightly less than stellar.
As far as quality goes, the set is teriffic. Picture quality is extremely good, but not perfect; I think we can blame this on the age of the films and not because of any disservice from Warner's. The prints are cleaned up very nicely, but just not as pristine as other releases such as Now Voyager or Mildred Pierce, which fairly glimmer. Very good quality, though.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This collection of Garbo films is an economical way of obtaining these films if you want them but it is a little disappointing as a package. The positives are obvious - a good selection of Garbo's best films, a good documentary about her career and some excellent commentaries on the Silents. In fact, the Garbo Silents disk shows the loving attention of the best TCM DVDs which leads to the disappointing aspect of the collection. Most of the prints of the talkies are poor. "Queen Christina", "Camille" and "Ninotchka", maybe her best films, warrant restoration. "Anna Karenina" does not even contain a complete print. There are no commentaries, a few theatrical trailers and "Grand Hotel" has an interesting newsreel of the premiere. These films deserve better.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2007
This is an impressive set, by far the most economical way to get all of these movies in one place. Since Garbo made so few films in her career, this is an excellent way to get a survey of her filmography, from her first silent MGM films to her later talkies.
My only real complaint is that the contents are not as filling as the overwhelming size of this giant cube of a package would imply. Aside from the movies, we only get commentaries on the silent films; on Camille, we get the original silent version starring Nazimova and Valentino; Anna Christie includes the German language version, and Grand Hotel has the most extras on a disc. Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Mata Hari, and Ninotchka have nothing more than a trailer for extra features, and the Garbo documentary takes up a whole disc by itself. Not that I expect Warner to load each DVD with unrelated content (although i have no objections to their "night at the movies" features), but what's really surprising is what's missing from each DVD that could have been included. After all, it's not like Garbo hadn't already made a silent version of Anna Karenina with John Gilbert called Love that could have been put on that disc. Ninotchka was remade as Silk Stockings, but you wouldn't know that from this set.
In summary, the movies and features just seem to be spread thin across 9 discs, the result is a set that takes up more space than is really necessary. To put into perspective, the TCM Lon Chaney Collection also included 3 films with commentaries, as well as a documentary; this set could have easily consolidated those discs just the same.
With no other historical context, it would not be recommended to buy these DVDs separate from this set, especially if one was unfamiliar with Greta Garbo.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2006
I can confirm Mr Sharafyan's observation. I have a tape, recorded in 1989, of a BBC transmission of Anna Karenina. In this version, and missing from the DVD, Garbo calls the boy on to the gondola and gazes at him for a moment before March gives him a coin and sends him back to his friends. At this point reel-change dots appear on the screen and there is a cut to a next-reel shot, with Garbo looking pensive and March saying 'We're still in Venice', which Garbo (thinking of her son) answers by referring to the look in the boy's eyes and suggesting they return to Moscow, as the scene fades out. On the DVD, without the segment of the boy actually on the gondola, Garbo's comment about the boy's eyes hardly makes sense because he is only seen doing cartwheels. Could there be any significance in the fact that the fragment missing from the DVD occurs at the end of a reel? An error in transferring the film to DVD?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2014
I recently ordered this set and was disappointed and angered. The quality of most of the videos is inexcusably poor; they appear to have been carelessly copied from scratched old prints. The opening scene of "Camille," which is supposed to take place on a sunny day in Paris, looks instead to be occuring in a rainstorm of scratches. The images in most of the films are grainy, washed out with poor black and white balance. The degraded quality negatively impacts the appreciation of Garbo's art which involved subtle facial movements originally beautifully even lovingly captured by cameraman William H. Daniels in her best films. "Queen Christina" is an acknowledged masterpiece of lighting, but all of the subtlety and dimension is gone from the version in this set, giving this great film a cartoony look. This set is inexcusable because superb prints of most Garbo films are available and have been shown recently. This set is a shameful betrayal of a great artist by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Brothers. Disgraceful.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
I am a huge fan of Greta Garbo, and I have seen all her movies more than once. I recently bought her Signature DVD collection and I was very happy to own it finally. I was watching "Anna Karenina" on the other day on DVD and I found out that a scene is missing from the movie. In that scene Greta Garbo's character Anna is with Frederic March's character Vronsky in Venice riding a gondola. Then, all of a sudden, a little boy comes to them and shows some tricks and Anna becomes very pleased to see him because he reminded her of her own son. She throws some coins to him. The missing scene is actually a part of this scene. That same boy brings all his friends from his neighborhood and they are all starting to do the same tricks as he was doing to get more coins. The whole scene takes approximately 5 minutes.
First, I thought that my DVD might have been defected, but I was so determined to find out that I actually bought another DVD just to prove myself that it is not defected. The production did skip that scene from the DVD. In May I went to see this movie on a big screen at UCLA and the scene was there. So if you are a picky person like me I would not recommend you to buy this DVD till the Warner Brothers will correct that mistake.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2005
I have been a long-time fan of Garbo's but I hesitated to spend money on a black and white DVD collection with a silent one in there to boot!
Well, let me tell you it was worth every penny. The picture is crystal clear showing previous details of sets and costumes missed before. And that face!!!
I was watching "Queen Christina" and early on in the movie there is a scene where Garbo's face is shown in profile and takes up the whole screen when she looks above and then says wearily, "Must we live for the dead?" The line itself isn't the important thing; it's that for just a split second time comes to a stop and you know you are witnessing something extraordinary.
If you like GG I highly recommend this set. You will be amazed by her all over again.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
As a long time Garbo fan, this set is worth the wait.
The documentary is excellent, and the features are everything you could want. I was particularly interested and impressed with the silents, having seen only two, and them only once.
"Camille" is my all time favorite movie. That's it. My favorite. The story is a timeless love story set against the accepted mores of society. There is the wonderful addition on the Camille DVD of the rarely seen (non-Garbo) silent version with Valentino as Gaston. This silent version is often referred to in movie retrospectives for it's unusual and artistic sets in high Deco style.
"Anna Karenina" is another classic of Garbo's and one of my favorites of her films - I've watched it at least 20 times. It remains one of the best adaptations of this story to film. The 2000 version with Sophie Morceau is a really wonderful pairing/contrast with this version.... shifting focus and social concerns, and adding color, but this black and white Garbo version remains equal to it. Tarzan's Jane shows her real talent playing "Kitty" with lightness and vulnerability.
"Anna Christie" is a stage classic that was altered very little for the film. It was the perfect choice to introduce Garbo to the world, and is the heartwrenching story of a woman who wants to forget her past and just live a simple life. In retrospect, this is also what Garbo wanted for her own life, and that dimension only adds to the levels. This one also includes the German version made with Garbo and her good friend and mentor in the Marie Dressler role.
"Ninotchka" is Garbo's memorable comedy, later made into the musical Silk Stockings. She makes fun of the serious impervious image created by some of her other films, and it is a perfect foil for the overall serious tone of this set.
"Mata Hari" is easy to dismiss as too camp, too melodrama, but it is beautiful to look at, both in its glitz, and its more severe moments. We should all look so beautiful in prison when we are about to die. It is a quintessential blending of Garbo's silent work and her early sound work.
"Queen Christina" is probably her best work, with some interesting direction, with moments of eloquent silence that Hitchock began to move to in his later work. One classic moment is referenced in many other movies. Often said to be one of her own favorites, it has many moments of playful sexual ambiguity... and has been the springboard for the highly imaginative rumors of her "lesbianism". Her nephew puts it best in the documentary. She has a history of long and very open and public relationships with men; anything different from that is conjecture. I'll add that having read almost every Garbo bio, the only person who difinitively states he knows she had a lesbian affair is a spurned lover who has a reputation for trying to spread untrue rumors about many of the legendary people he knew. He simply is not a reliable source.
I saved "Grand Hotel" for last. Garbo herself knew she was miscast as a ballerina, and while it loks like her worst, most overwrought work, her flair as a silent actress was useful in the role of the overdramatic diva. Prima ballerina's are actually more dramatic than this, so it is only her stature that makes this really laughable. Still, it is a jewel. It was the very first film to feature stars in every major role, and Joan Crawford shines. Grand Hotel has the best work of several of it's stars, and it is eminantly watchable and enjoyable.
Just a wonderful box set. It makes one long to be alone... to watch these DVDs again and again! The quality of the prints is great. I rate this set much HIGHER than 5 stars. For one supersized, undimmable star!