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Mata Hari [VHS] (1931)

Greta Garbo , Ramon Novarro , George Fitzmaurice  |  NR |  VHS Tape
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Greta Garbo, Ramon Novarro, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, C. Henry Gordon
  • Directors: George Fitzmaurice
  • Writers: Benjamin Glazer, Doris Anderson, Gilbert Emery, Leo Birinsky
  • Producers: George Fitzmaurice, Irving Thalberg
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: MGM (Warner)
  • VHS Release Date: September 1, 1998
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6301972252
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,596 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


She's a household name that conjures up international intrigue and wartime espionage, predatory sexuality and fatal passion. So how is it that none of the several movies titled Mata Hari is very satisfying? This Greta Garbo vehicle is much less interesting than the 1931 Sternberg-Dietrich film Dishonored (whose doomed spy lady went by the name X-27). The divine Swede plays the Javanese-Dutch exotic dancer who romances a Russian aviator in perfumed Paris on behalf of German intelligence. It's typical that the Balinese temple harness Garbo almost wears in the first nightclub number looks sexier in stills than it does in motion: Mata Hari is less a film than the idea for a film. George Fitzmaurice's direction is static, silent-era holdover Ramon Navarro makes a cookie-dough leading man, and the feisty Karen Morley (as Mata's secret-agent colleague) exits the picture much too soon. The gowns--and harness?--are by Adrian. --Richard T. Jameson

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous Garbo! March 20, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Actually, the only real reason I wanted to see this picture was the alluring Greta Garbo. The woman radiates mystery, which in today's cinema is all-to-rare. She is really the best thing about this film, which is kind of cheesy in everything else. The costumes are gorgeous, the sets are well-contrived, but it's the worn story and wooden acting all around Garbo that drag this film down.
This is a Hollywood rendering of a famous spy, Mata Hari, who, on being caught, is executed by firing squad in the end. There is no faulting Garbo's contribution, as she slithers from one scene to the next, fully convincing as the ill-fated, beautiful spy. I only the rest of the cast had put forth that much effort! Ah well.
Fans of Miss Garbo will, no doubt, fully enjoy this film, as Garbo is actually very moving in her scenes. Now don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this film, myself. I just wish more effort could have been put forth by just a few more of her colleagues.
I give this film four stars on the basis of Garbo's unique ability to light up the screen whenever she appears, and for the glorious costumes that populate her environment. Just sit back and enjoy the visual treat that was Greta Garbo.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really great, but worth watching February 14, 2007
This seems like one of those films that sounded better on paper than in the actual finished product. The sets and costumes are gorgeous, the plot (though rather loosely based on the history behind the real Mata Hari) had a lot of potential to be interesting and gripping, and it has four big names heading the bill. Greta Garbo and Ramon Novarro are two of my favorites, and though I haven't seen him in a huge amount of films yet, I've also really enjoyed Lewis Stone in the films I have seen him in. The other big star, Lionel Barrymore, overacts as usual, though he does pull off the role well. (Though I know he was talented in spite of his tendency to overact, it's beyond me why he was once considered a better actor than his brother John.)

However, in spite of the big names, the promising storyline, and the gorgeous costumes and sets, the picture ultimately seems to fall rather flat. Perhaps part of it could be attributed to how this is after all an early talkie, made in 1931; it would take a little bit longer yet for films to lose this stagy feeling, with almost nonstop chatter, and go back to having more freedom of motion and a balance between dialogue and scenes and moments that didn't rely so heavily on constant talk. Many of these lines themselves weren't very dramatic or original, more like empty words used to fill the time. Additionally, it just didn't seem to have a whole lot of dramatic tension or to be a very compelling interesting story till it was well more than halfway over. There's also the problem of how Ramon is supposed to be portraying a Russian aviator.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually Pretty but Shallow August 26, 2010
Mata Hari, whose name translated loosely as "Eye of the Morning," was an eastern princess who had been immersed in dance from the moment of her birth--or so she said. In actual fact, she was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, born to a respectable family in Leeuwarden, Holland. In 1895, with the family fortune in decline, she married Rudolf John MacLeod and with him moved to Java. The marriage was horrendously unsuccessful and the couple separated in 1903, when she returned to Europe. After a stint as everything from an artist model to a circus horseback rider, Margaretha reinvented herself through a name change, skimpy costumes, and fairly lacivious dances. Critics regarded her as a lousy dancer, but the public loved her, and she would continue her career as both dancer and courtesan for the next fourteen years, passing between lovers as freely as she passed between the theatres of Europe. During World War I, however, the combination of Mata Hari's lovers and her touring schedule brought charges of espionage. Accused passing information to Germany that caused the deaths of some fifty thousand French soliders, she was found guilty and executed by firing squad in 1917 at age 41. Much argument concerning her guilt or innocence continues to this day.

But you won't really learn much of this from the 1931 MGM film MATA HARI. The Dutch Mata Hari is played by Swedish star Greta Garbo. Mata Hari and Garbo have precisely one trait in common: neither can dance worth a damn. Where Garbo is concerned the film tries to conceal this by a mixture of costuming and "artistic" cinematography that avoids showing Garbo's legendarily large feet and works to dodge the more obvious edges of her lack of dance talent. But Garbo is hardly the only performer who is miscast.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly great MGM masterpiece August 3, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Excellent early 30's vechicle for Greta Garbo and Ramon Novarro. Both stars have never been better in both looks and performances. Lighting of the film is a real highlight and it's performances like this that make you wonder why the great Ramon Novarro didn't stay one of the greatest heartthrobs of 30's romances, he is sensational. Garbo as always is exotic, mysterious and totally captivating. Any real lover of Hollywood's glamour era when stars were real stars should purchase this video.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
an old classic!!!
Published 1 month ago by Kandiew, Anatoly(tony)Kandiew
4.0 out of 5 stars an early talkie
Somewhat of a classic from way back when.

You have to appreciate the genre of the early talkies or this movie will not interest you much. Read more
Published 10 months ago by ilbob
3.0 out of 5 stars Tit for tat
My brother had me order this for him, since he likes Greta Garbo (he's 88 yrs old). I think he wasn't so impressed by this particular movie.
Published 14 months ago by Aunt Grandma
5.0 out of 5 stars Good film
I love Greta Garbo. Every film I've seen her in, her performance has delivered. I think this film is worth the money. See more at vyctoryab dot wix dot com slash xplr.
Published 14 months ago by Vyctorya
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull Garbo Vehicle
Greta Garbo's exoticism cannot save another dispensable potboiler from the MGM assembly line. Released the same year as Marlene Dietrich's vastly superior "Dishonored," the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Scott T. Rivers
1.0 out of 5 stars Gobble, gobble
You could honestly say that this film, a not very accurate retelling of the story of the most famous female spy in history, isn't a total disaster, if you put total in italics. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jon Corelis
2.0 out of 5 stars Garbo Poses
Greta Garbo has always been interesting to watch, with her many expressions, especially sad ones, and her great looks. Read more
Published on October 27, 2011 by Cary Grant
4.0 out of 5 stars Mata Hari
Silly hokum of course, but I'm just such a sucker for MGM gloss. By '31 they worked out all those early talkie kinks, & the sets and costumes just shine. Nice mobile camera, too. Read more
Published on September 25, 2011 by Charles D. Fulton
4.0 out of 5 stars "A spy in love is a tool that has outlived its usefulness"
Garbo spoke in 1930's "Anna Christie"....but no-one was prepared for the frenzy that would be unleashed the following year, when she took on the exotic character of MATA HARI. Read more
Published on December 29, 2010 by Byron Kolln
5.0 out of 5 stars Mata: Yours forever!
Mata Hari was probably one of the most tragic episodes of the WW1. Mata Hari personified the mythical woman, the femme fatal, the unreachable ideal, the highest peak of the... Read more
Published on October 26, 2010 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
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