92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2006
When you are buying classic movies on DVD, your main concern probably is the quality of the film transfers. Who wants to watch grainy, unrestored black-and-white films when such beautiful transfers of other films have been released (Now Voyager or Mildred Pierce, for example)? My point is all classic films deserve first-rate dvd transfers.
I am happy to report that the films in Universal's Marlene Dietrich collection all look very good. The transfers are not perfect, and quite possibly could have been restored to a greater extent. However, the transfers look just as good as anything WB has been releasing lately. The transfers are about on par with titles from the Greta Garbo or Joan Crawford collections from WB; not perfect, but very nice.
My main complaint is there were not more Dietrich films in this collection. I would love to also have Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress, Desire, Angel, Dishonored, and A Foreign Affair. Hopefully, Universal will release a second volume with these titles.
Athough the packaging is attractive, it is cheap. The movies are crammed on two-sided DVDs. It's mystifying why Universal saw fit to cram four titles on one double-sided DVD and one title (Golden Earrings) on one side of the other double-sided DVD (leaving a complete side with nothing on it). It seems a waste of DVD space to me; why not put three more titles in the set with that extra space? Or, for better picture quality, put one title on three DVD sides, and two on one side? My guess is they were in a big, careless hurry.
Luckilly, this is not that big of a deal. The films are here, they look good, and the price is a bargain! In these days, who can afford to spend all their money on movies? WB may be charging the cost of this set for one movie alone, and with about the same transfer quality. At least Universal gives us five films for the cost of one WB title!
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2006
...but that's about it. While this hotly awaited (at least by me) collection contains three of Dietrich's Josef von Sternberg films ("Morrocco", "Blonde Venus" and "The Devil is A Woman") and one by Rene' Clair ("Flame of New Orleans") it , alas, does not contain Dietrich and von Sternberg's "Shanghai Express" which it could have sorely used. The 5th film "Golden Earrings" is not one I would have chosen. And the packaging here is less than appetizing. Very cheaply done. Although the films look OK, cramming them onto 2 discs does not give them the respect they are due. They should have been individually packaged with their original poster art, etc. This would have made a fine collector's item. Dietrich (and esp. von Sternberg) were unique, even for their era. Watch "Devil is A Woman" for example. The Travis Banton costumes, the setting of Carnivale in Spain during the 1800's, Dietrich's slightly over the top performance as a femme fatale---all beautifully and baroquely realized by von Sterberg. Quite unlike anything else from the 1930's. But for fans , this is it and I guess we should be grateful they're even out at all in watchable prints. Still, it's sad that this set could've been done so differently...for the better that is.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2006
Marlene Dietrich was one of the greatest stars the movies ever produced. That said, she deserved better treatment for her films than this. I have no objections to the films presented here. None of th five films were available on DVD before, and their release in this format was way overdue. However, the packaging was negligible. Five films on two discs, divided this way: four films on one disc, with one film on the other. No liner notes of any kind, and practically no extras whatsoever. A still gallery of any sort would have great here, as well as any kind of Dietrich documentary, which was notably absent. The films themselves look fine, and the addition of a subtitle option was very welcome. I've viewed each film, and they look fine to me. I have these movies on video, and they all look better in this set. The pricing was very fair, as there is nothing extra added to drive up the price. One would think Universal would come up with something better to honor such a legendary star. Just look at the Greta Garbo Collection which is out now. One disc per film(except for the silent films), plus a documentary. Dietrich in her day was Garbo's main rival, and just as popular. Her films have aged much better than Garbo's, and her influence on culture and fashion continues to this day. I hope that sometime in the future, we'll be treated to a true Dietrich collection, done correctly, with the films given the whole archival treatment they deserve.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2006
First, the good; this is, as far as I'm concerned, an excellent introduction to the great Marlene Dietrich. We get five of her best films, including her very first U.S. film ("Morocco") and the last of her legendary collaborations with Josef von Stenberg ("The Devil Is A Woman"), along with the chance to see her play opposite male leads ranging from Gary Cooper to Ray Milland and essay genres from melodrama to action-adventure to comedy. Not only is her ultra-high glamour quotient on display, but also her excellence as an actress and singer.
Now, the bad: the packaging is pitifully bad for a collection of this importance. I watched the Netflix version, which has the movies spread out among three single-sided DVD's, so didn't have the problem with double-sided DVD's that others have reported. However, there are no extras except for trailers - which, considering the importance of Marlene Dietrich in the history of film, is nothing short of an outrage. If "legitimate" releases are going to be so indifferent in their presentation, then all I can say is that it's no wonder that copyright-breaking P2P downloading is so popular these days. The studios are doing themselves no favor by shortchanging the fans like this.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2006
I can understand Edward Coogan's frustration about Marlene's movies availability in NTSC region 1 and their quality. I would like to point out that Universal in France (PAL, region 2) has recently released 12 glorious DVDs with Marlene's movies on 12 glorious DVDs (one movie per DVD) including all the titles from the upcoming 'Glamor' release plus A Foreign Affair (B. Wilder), Dishonored (Sternberg), and The Song of Songs (Mamoulian). Great movies and DVD quality. There are also Knight without Armor released in Austaria (PAL, region 4) and Shanghai Express (PAL, region 5) reseased in Russia by Film Prestige. Maybe it's time to think about investing about $30 on a region-free DVD player and enjoy these phenomenal classics. Just a thought...
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2006
It is a shame that a modern moviegoing generation probably has no idea who Marlene Dietrich is. She remains quite a glamour queen from the 1930-1935 period especially, and Universal Home Video's THE MARLENE DIETRICH COLLECTION goes a long way toward letting us see her in her heyday in flawless studio prints.
MOROCCO (1930), BLONDE VENUS (1932), and THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (1935) were all directed by Josef von Sternberg, who was a genius with smoke and light and shadow. He even gets photography credit on THE DEVIL. The stories here are not that important--often a man tells another man at a bar table about a forbidden woman who drives gullible men to destruction and/or unnecessary duels. MOROCCO has Dietrich as a cabaret singer who gets involved with French Foreign Legionnaire Gary Cooper and officer Adolphe Menjou. Everyone smokes, so von Sternberg turns the movie into a smoke-filled paradise. In THE DEVIL, we are in turn-of-the-20th Century Spain. Lionel Atwill tells Cesar Romero about a woman (Dietrich) who destroys the men who get into her alluring "net". It is one of the most visually ravishing films of the 1930's.
BLONDE VENUS is more plot-heavy, but my favorite of these three. Dietrich is married to Herbert Marshall, who has a rare disease that requires expensive treatment in Europe. A young Cary Grant agrees to pay for the treatment, but for a price that Marshall initially does not know about...he wants to become Dietrich's lover, even though she has a young son (Dickie Moore). (Wait until she takes a night club job singing "Hot Voodoo" in an ape suit!) That's almost enough plot to share on a compelling soap opera with a happy ending. Bert Glennon did the photography this time and, yes, this shimmering vault print has the nude skinny dipping opening scene intact.
FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS (1941, Universal) was directed by Rene Clair after he immigrated to America. It has basically the same plot as THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN: in 19th Century New Orleans, Bruce Cabot tells Roland Young about a woman who destroys all the men she comes in contact with. The supporting cast here is a wow: Laura Hope Crews, Andy Devine, Mischa Auer, etc. Studio-set cinematography and set design are magnificent in this first-rate period romance.
Finally, this collection has GOLDEN EARRINGS (1948, Paramount), where British diplomat Ray Milland poses as a gypsy with real gypsy Dietrich in Germany to get Nazi secrets. The plot is nonsense, but director Mitchell Leisen gives it all a gorgeous visual look and romantic mood. The same year, Dietrich worked with Billy Wilder on A FOREIGN AFFAIR.
If you like these five movies, do check out the first Dietrich-von Sternberg collaboration: THE BLUE ANGEL (1929, Germany), which they subsequently remade at Paramount in English in 1930. It may be her greatest performance. Check out the Kino Video print.
So, we have five very good Marlene Dietrich movies in absolutely gorgeous prints. But I am docking it a full two stars because the set has no bonuses at all when bonuses would be both welcome and needed; and because Universal has cheaply put four of the movies on two sides of one disk, thus risking the danger of freeze frame. At very least they should have put five movies on five disks--and put some damned labels on unlabeled disks! Prints this beautiful and films this much fun deserve first-class manufacturing.
32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2006
This long over-due collection of five early Marlene Dietrich films from the Paramount days is set to include: 'Blonde Venus,' 'The Devil Is a Woman,' 'The Flame of New Orleans,' 'Golden Earrings,' & 'Morocco'. The way these films are packaged is likely to be similar to the Gary Cooper collection released last year ie. five films with great quality prints squeezed onto two double-sided discs in a no-frills slip-covered fold out box.
For those of us who don't care about fancy packaging and only about great looking classic films at affordable prices this is exactly the way we want these early gems released. Well done, Universal keep 'em coming.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a cheap DVD set so you get what you pay for - 5 films of the legendary Marlene Dietrich in excellent condition with no extras except a couple of trailers and poor packaging with no labels and 2 disks, one of which has a blank side. I don't mind the lack of extras at the price but the confusion in locating each film is a pain and the DVDs are "sticky" due to the cramming.
As for the films themselves, the selection is fair with 3 from the Von Sternberg era in the early thirties and 2 from the forties. It is arguable whether Dietrich was ever much of an actress, certainly not in the same league as her contemporary Greta Garbo. She came to America with the same aura of mystique but during the war, she came down from the pedestal. She was best in comedy, with a great dry irony, and most often cast as a trollop.
Here is what the DVD provides:
- In 1930, Dietrich was brought to Hollywood from Berlin with her Svengali, Joseph Von Sternberg, and rushed into "Morocco". The film was released at the end of 1930 and watching it today, it probably would have been better as a silent. In fact, I would suggest that it can be viewed more enjoyably with the sound turned off because the ponderous dialogue is irrelevant and the film moves at a snail's pace. Von Sternberg's art was visual and there are numerous shots carefully lit and posed of the languorous Dietrich. Acting does not really come into it but her performance is convincing simply by how she is presented. Gary Cooper, cast as a French Foreign Legionnaire, looks the part but every time he opens his mouth, he is absurd. The best moment is the end of the film - no dialogue, an archway, Dietrich, buffeted by the wind and sand, walking into the desert with the camp followers. Note also the film is pre-code and there are some provocative suggestions concerning Dietrich's sexual preferences in her night club act.
- By 1932, Dietrich was established in Hollywood, having been re-groomed into a sleeker creature than in "Morocco". Von Sternberg cobbled together an unbelievable yarn in the mother love/self sacrifice genre which was popular at the time. "Blonde Venus" stars Dietrich as a wife who sacrifices herself to playboy Cary Grant to pay for the operation needed to save chemist husband, Herbert Marshall, from death due to radium poisoning. Dietrich underplays well and establishes a believable relationship with her son, Dickie Moore, a natural child star. Grant too is excellent and credible as an sophisticated playboy. Herbert Marshall is unable to rise above the clichés and offers a dreary unconvincing performance. The photography and sets are spectacular and Dietrich sings 3 songs in her usual intriguing manner. "Hot Voodoo" is famous because she steps out of a gorilla suit. The film was a box office failure at the time, not the least because it was an expensive production but it can be enjoyed today for the superb lighting, sets, costumes and staging.
- the last of the Dietrich/Von Sternberg collaboration is the 1935 "The Devil is a Woman". Dietrich plays a heartless Spanish woman who destroys all the men with whom she comes in contact. The plot and treatment are really like grand opera without the music. Visually, the film is a masterpiece and it looks superb. Dietrich is more animated than in the former films and a young Cesar Romero is very romantic opposite her. This is a film you either love or loathe. It certainly leaves an impression and it does contain my favourite Dietrich number, the funny and cynical "Three Loves have I" which she delivers with a great sense of irony.
- in 1941, Dietrich was guided by the famous French director, Rene Clair, in a throwback role to the Von Sternberg days. She plays an adventuress in New Orleans in 1841 who plots to marry a banker but departs at the altar to marry a sailor. Dietrich is too old for the part and the light touch Claire tries for fails whether it be due to the censorship or the plodding pace. The costumes are spectacular but there are too many shots of Dietrich, prettily posed, acting coy (very unconvincing) and lit for maximum visual effect but minimum dramatic or even comedic and by 1941, this was dated and tiresome. The sets are often 2 dimensional and some of the process shots are poor. Bruce Cabot is her less than magnetic leading man and Roland Young is miscast as the banker. One unintentionally funny moment - Cabot and Dietrich on the railing of the ship in the early morning and ships sails moving past behind them; you can visualise the film crew pushing the cardboard cutouts!
- The last film in the collection is the bizarre "Golden Earrings", released in 1947. The film is a wartime thriller but plays best as a comedy. Dietrich is entertaining as an earthy gypsy who helps British agent Ray Milland, hide from Nazis. The film is beautifully made by Mitchell Liesen but Milland looks uncomfortable and apparently loathed the experience. The scenes with Germans are surprisingly convincing and the film is good fun even if it is absurd and overlong.
All the prints are in great condition and with the Von Sternberg films, this is particularly gratifying since the photography and art direction are so good.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2008
I was suspicious of the 3 DVD package at first - thinking that the quality would be lacking. However, I was pleasantly surprised that all the films were from very good quality prints. The package is clearly worth double the price. It's true - there are no extras, but that doesn't bother me. This is a great value for outstanding entertainment & a must have for any Marlana Dietrich fan! Now, if somebody like Criterion would only release a restored version "Shanghai Express" on DVD!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Glamour Collection is a nicely priced package of DVDs, especially considering most of the Dietrich DVDs previously released cost more for just one film. The format is disappointing. There are two disks and five films; the first disk carries four films and the second carries one and yet that second disk is also two sided. The second side would have made a great place for special features or even another film.
Morocco was Dietrich's first film made in America, so it is important in her history. It stars Gary Cooper as a man of the military and Dietrich as a nightclub singer that seduces him. The story is pretty trite, but it shows off Dietrich's amazing ability to enchant an audience even with very little plot. She sings and her androgeny shines even in tails. She and Cooper have a nice chemistry and Josef con Sternberg's light directing makes both of them positively glow. The ending is highly artistic and beautifully shot, but this is one of those films that one either loves or hates. Keep and eye out for Dietrich's famous savage doll.
Blonde Venus is the reason I bought this DVD. It was my first Dietrich film and it stars one of my favorite child stars, Dickie Moore. Dietrich's husband (Herbert Marshall) is ill and needs expensive medical attention unless he'll die. Dietrich decides to do what she can by getting her old job back as a nightclub performer. She catches a rich man's eye (Cary Grant) and recieves money from him, but her husband learns of her indiscresion and vows to leave her and take their young son (Moore) away. To Dietrich, nothing could be worse, so she runs away with her son to flee the man she did everything to save. It's a truly memorable film with von Sternberg's signature lighting and an unforgettable performance from Dietrich.
The Devil is a Woman was one of Dietrich's favorite films, but to me it is a great bore. It abounds with great photography and beautiful costumes, but the plot is very thinly done and there is hardly any chemistry between Dietrich and her men including Lionel Atwill and Cesar Romero. And it is hard to imagine the blonde haired, blue eyed Dietrich as a Spanish enchantress.
The Flame of New Orleans is much better and a great contrast to the previous films. All of the above films were done with von Sternberg, but this one was not. It is much more free spirited and fun, a great screwball film. Again, it is about a seductive woman who toggles between a wealthy man and a poor one that she loves. In order to juggle them, she impersonates as both herself and her imaginary twin sister. If you are disappointed by the first three films, check this one out; it will probably win you over.
Golden Earrings is the final film in this collection. Dietrich plays a gypsy who hides a man (Ray Milland) working against the Nazis just before WWII. She seduces him and falls in love with him, a very funny and entertaining film. It is sort of funny in one scene when Milland asks how to hide his blue eyes, obviously not a gypsy trait. Dietrich had blue eyes too, but no one seemed to reference that fact!