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!
on April 26, 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.
on April 5, 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.
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.
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...
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.
on June 19, 2014
Even the name Dietrich conjures up images so ingrained in our collective consciousness it's hard to believe she has been gone from us for so long. Marlene Dietrich was glamour...in every way she the personification of that lovely word. This collection of 5 films give us a glance into the career of a very beloved actress. "Morocco," starring Gary Cooper and Adolph Menjou under the desert sun with the Foreign Legion as the backdrop is here along with "Blonde Venus," starring Herbert Marshall, an incurably adorable Dickie Moore and a young Cary Grant with its iconic gorilla sequence which subsequently finds Dietrich donning a man's white tie and tails and kissing another woman plus "The Devil Is A Woman" with Lionel Atwill and Cesar Romero and "The Flame Of New Orleans" with Bruce Cabot and Roland Young. The fifth and final film...is the one that is rarely seen and the one that has become my favorite movie starring Marlene Dietrich and Ray Milland. Directed by Michell Leisen, this is an altogether different Dietrich than you have ever seen and, easily, the least glamorous role of all...:it is the 1947 film, "Golden Earrings." It is a fine film and story of an upper-crust British Intelligence agent, Colonel, R.C. Denistoun, who, along with his very young cohort and fellow agent, Richard Byrd, escape Nazi cruelty and imprisonment for espionage on the eve of WW II. Trying desperately to retrieve a formula for poison gas from a family friend of Richard Byrd, he is the only person whom Professor Krosigk knows and will give the formula to rather than allow the new Nazi Party Germans to use it for their ends. After the initial escape the two split up and along the way Col. Denistoun meets and befriends Lydia, the gypsy woman who is to become his savior in the mission to meet up with young Byrd at a predetermined destination near the home of Professor Krosigk and finally get the formula. Theirs is a story of greed, intrigue, jealousy, oppression, resignation and need which turns into something much more before all is said and done. You will love Dietrich in her portrayal of Lydia, the gypsy outcast who eats with her hands, tells bogus fortunes, steals food and whose golden earrings have cast their spell on the unsuspecting "Liebling" the water gods have sent her...one Col. Ralph C.Denistoun. Both Dietrich and Milland were made for their respective roles and are absolutely terrific together.
on January 19, 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.
on February 18, 2014
I don't care how many times I see "Morocco", I still love watching Dietrich when she encounters Gary Cooper. What a delightful dance of love and obsession in the ancient casbah. And then there is "Blonde Venus" what an entertaining story with the charming Cary Grant as a love interest and that catchy musical number "Hot Voodoo". The movies are fun, the sets and costumes are great and Marlene works her magic once again.
on January 1, 2015
I was very surprised by the production and entertainment value of these movies. I may have seen some of these growing up, but I cant remember them. Modern actors and movie producers couldn't duplicate these movies if their life depended on it.
Marlene who cant really dance or sing very well is captivating to watch. If you see her in a scene with a hundred people it wont take long to spot her. During this time only actors and actresses who had that something special rose to the top.
The one theme I noticed watching these movies so far is, you may think you know how the movie is going end. But Marlene will throw you a big curve and do something you never expected.
I would definitely suggest you buy this set, hopefully more of her movies will be released in a package set like this one.
If your tired of the phony CGI junk the studios release today, do yourself a favor and take a look at this set.
On A final note I have watched all but Golden Earrings and I would say the quality of the transfer to DVD is excellent.