23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2005
Although part of the large scale GARBO:THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION featuring 7 of her 1930's films, THE GARBO SILENTS is available seperately for the silent film enthusiast or for those who don't want to purchase the whole package. It joins the sets of Buster Keaton and Lon Chaney films released earlier by TCM Archives. As with those sets the production values are high, the extras plentiful, and the set offered at a reasonable price considering what it contains.
I do however have a few issues with this new release. First up is the exclusion of the new documentary GARBO from this set (it's part of THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION). It is listed as being included according to the TCM website but instead there's a documentary on the recent rescoring of the movies by a group of young composers. While that is interesting and important, the documentary on Garbo is more important and would get more people to buy the set. The packaging is annoying too with two of the three films presented on a double sided DVD (which can come apart) although I suppose it does keep the price down.
Then there's the choice of films. I'm sure every Garbo fan has something to say about this. I would like to have seen WOMAN OF AFFAIRS included as I think that remains one of her very best silents with fine work from a young Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I also wish that they could have used the tinted print for THE MYSTERIOUS LADY that was used for the VHS release since the quality of this print is no better than that one which had damage issues. The musical accompaniment for this edition is much better than the old release and overall it's up to TCM's high standards. While not the best of her silents FLESH AND THE DEVIL still remains electrifying thanks to the chemistry between her and John Gilbert and the glorious photography of William Daniels. THE MYSTERIOUS LADY is fun with the courtmartial scene a standout and Garbo a knockout in every frame. THE TEMPTRESS gives us a look at Garbo at the start of her American career. Perhaps these films were chosen because she has a different leading man in each one or to give Garbo fans something to argue about. Who knows?
Nevertheless it's great to have Garbo back where she belongs, up there on the silver screen (even if its a lot smaller and not nearly as silver as it used to be). Thanks to TCM Archives for once again bringing us the good stuff from the M-G-M vaults. Keep it coming Warner Home Video. First Chaney, then Keaton and now Garbo. What's next? How about the Lillian Gish Collection (THE SCARLET LETTER, LA BOHEME, THE WIND) or the Tod Browning Collection (THE SHOW, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, FREAKS). Just a thought.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2002
Flesh and the Devil is my favorite silent film and one of my favorite movies period. Of course, this film was the one that sparked the real life romance between Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. Motion Picture Magazine, at the time, was right on it. In the December 1926 issue, an article on Garbo and Gilbert sported the following subtitle: "When Clarence Brown Filmed the Love Scenes with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert for 'The Flesh and the Devil,' He Was Working with Raw Material." Yes, especially for its time, the love scenes are red hot (accounts from the cameramen claimed that Garbo and Gilbert kept going even when the cameras stopped). I think this film, however, is often overshadowed by the Gilbert/Garbo romance and the tragedy that would follow. I find this film to be a classic based on the relationship between the two best friends in the film, the incredible acting, and the seductive atmosphere it presents. The interesting backdrops (sometimes of a fantastical nature) lend further charm to the story.
The film seems to take place in 1800s Germany. It certainly takes place before the First World War, as there is a sense of confidence and security among the characters and their families at the beginning of the film. It was a time when the privileged classes lived in a sheltered world of their own and when honor meant everything. The two best friends Leo (Gilbert) and Ulrich (played by Lars Hanson) are from this wealthy "Junker" class. Leo is the free-spirited, spontaneous one, Ulrich the sensible, naive one. Their seemingly unassailable friendship is threatened by the "devil" herself, Felicitas (Garbo). Unaware, at the time, of the seductress' marriage, Leo soon finds himself in a duel with her husband. Leo's victory results in his 3-year military assignment in Africa, where he waits anxiously to be with Felicitas again. Only the two of them know of the passion they shared as a dispute at cards was the public reason for the duel. When Leo returns, he finds that his Felicitas is now married to his best friend. The evil enticement of Felicitas soon seizes Leo by the flesh, and he cannot resist her passion, even at the sake of his friendship with Ulrich. Will the devil cause the two best friends to meet their end in their own duel, or will the naive Ulrich prove the stronger of the characters? Suspenseful to the end, you will definitely watch this film more than once. Worth the price, especially for any Garbo, Gilbert, or silent film fan.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2005
I had been waiting for some of the late silent era's best films to be released on DVD, in particular those with Greta Garbo, and while hoping that there would be more, I'm still very pleased with the 3 Garbo films in this set. The picture quality of "The Mysterious Lady" is not much better than my old VHS, but apart from this, I'm very pleased with the overall quality on these discs, particularly the wonderful musical scores for each one, some unusual and inventive photo montages and other special features. Anyone interested in music would probably also find the half-hour documentary "Settling the Score" an unexpected and rewarding highlight, as I did. It depicts the TCM Young Film Composers Competition, some work from each entrant and how the final score for "The Temptress" was done. It helped me get a lot more insight into this challenging and fascinating work, and it left me with a much deeper appreciation and respect for good silent film scores.
No doubt everyone has one or more Garbo favourites, and perhaps TCM had trouble deciding which ones to include in this set. For some powerful emotional drama, "Flesh and the Devil" is probably one of the best and a good choice, especially as it features the two biggest stars of the time who were drawing large audiences: Garbo and John Gilbert. For a love story with espionage and suspense, it doesn't get much better than "The Mysterious Lady", and finally, "The Temptress" shows an interesting angle on Garbo's character. Her sensuous and alluring beauty brings men's lives to ruin, but she is unaware of any wrong-doing on her own part; and in fact, when she does see what problems she has unintentionally caused, she ends up a pathetic alcoholic on the streets of Paris, making one last sacrifice out of love. This story intrigued me the most, in fact, as it has some depth and an angle that might not be so obvious at first. There is also an alternative happy ending which was shown to other audiences; also an interesting point to consider. Each film on these discs has an optional commentary by 3 different experts, covering all kinds of background information, some gossip and other insights to give a more in-depth and complete picture of Garbo and these three particular films. No doubt there's something for everyone here, both for silent and general film or Garbo fans alike.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 1999
It took me about 30 minutes to realize that the movie was silent; I was captivated. Garbo was at her most beguiling. The film surpasses the name "movie" and zooms to "cinema" at its most eloquent.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2000
There once was a time,when movies wanted to be more than just entertaining, this film is an artistic triumph,almost like grand opera. Garbo and Gilbert are the tragic protagonists, although the story is far from convincing,it is directed and acted so brilliantly that you will forget everything that is annoying to you
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
Of course is a pleasure to see these brilliant silent films starring the great GARBO. "Flesh and the Devil" and "The Mysterious Lady" was part of my VHS collection. But "The Temptress" is a real surprise. Thanks to TCM for this and I (we) am waiting for "The Torrent" and more.
UNFORGIVEN: What happened with the Garbo pics collection? In the middle of one of the portraits montages there is a TALLULAH BANKHEAD picture. I don't understand! Who made the montage? Obvioulsy not a Garbo fan!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This beautiful story of fallen love from director Clarence Brown is given a romantic glow seldom seen in sound pictures. Garbo's magic, only occasionally seen in her sound films, is gloriously displayed here by photographer William Daniels. John Gilbert's charisma is also shown to great advantage, giving those who never saw him an explanation for his huge popularity during the silent era.
There is more story than usual is this lush and romantically told tale of forbidden love that just won't die and the long friendship it threatens. Based on Hermann Sudermann's novel, "The Undying Past," Benjamin F. Glazer's screenplay doesn't really seem that dated even today. The settings arranged by Cedric Gibbons and Frederic Hope make this fabulous production from MGM one of Garbo's finest films.
Leo von Harden (John Gilbert) and Ulrich (Lars Hanson) are military men whose bond runs deep and far, all the way back to childhood when they became blood-brothers in the presence of Ulrich's little sister Hertha (Barbara Kent) on the "Isle of Friendship." When as young men they return home, Leo sees for the first time the woman who will perhaps destroy not only that friendship, but Leo himself.
Garbo is the image of romance stepping off the train in her first screen moments. It is not long after at a ball that the two meet again, the white rose exchanged at their first meeting in hand. The scenes that follow are some of the most romantic in screen history. William Daniels frames Garbo's Felicitas in matchlight and moonlight beneath an arbor as one of the most romantic build-ups to a screen kiss takes place.
The shots of Garbo and Gilbert that follow are justly legendary. Though fully clothed, there is an oozing afterglow of implied intimacy that can almost be felt by the viewer. The scenes are filled with romance which takes a sudden and dark turn when the husband Felicity did not inform Leo of finds them together. A duel incurs in which Leo prevails, but only the Pastor knows the real reason for the tragedy.
Garbo's scenes picking out the right veil to mourn in shows the viewer all that Leo can not see with his eyes. He will have to spend five lonely years in Africa before he can return to her so they may be together. He implores his friend for life, Ulrich, to watch after her until he returns. He will not realize what a mistake it was until he returns and finds the two married, Ulrich being unaware of their prior love, and unable to resist her charms.
Barbara Kent is terrific as the grown Hertha, whose crush on Leo as a child has turned into an abiding love ignored by a brooding Leo. Felicitas begs him to reconcile with his friend but her motives are not pure like the white rose and soon temptation will overcome them. What follows cannot be revealed to the viewer but you will not see the ending of this romantic drama coming in any way.
Garbo and Gilbert were actually in love here, and it comes across in every scene. It is ironic that the haze of Garbo's spell cast over Gilbert in real life would destroy him nearly to the same degree as Mayer did when sound came along. This is a beautiful and romantic film with a lush and lovely glow you will not find anywhere else. Watch Garbo and Gilbert by firelight some rainy night with someone you love. It is an unforgettable film experience.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2005
Garbo is my favorite actress and I am very happy to see this collection, which is included in the "Greta Garbo Signature Collection" being released at the same time. I am even more happy to see "The Temptress" available for the first time. I would give this collection 5 stars if only they had included "The Torrent", her first Hollywood film, instead of "Mysterious Lady". While the latter has been available on VHS, "The Torrent" has never been available on home video, not to mention the fact that this collection would then have included her first three Hollywood films. The only Garbo film previously available on DVD is "Grand Hotel", so despite this criticism, I salute TCM Archives for giving us this collection, and especially for releasing "The Temptress", never previously available. I also recommend the TCM ARCHIVES LON CHANEY COLLECTION.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Greta Garbo made twelve major silent films, beginning with the Swedish THE SAGA OF GOSTA BERLINGS in 1924 and ending with three MGM films, THE KISS, WILD ORCHIDS, THE SINGLE STANDARD, in 1929. With a few exceptions during the VHS era, few of these films have been widely available to the home market. THE GARBO SILENTS COLLECTIONS offers three, one that Garbo fans have likely seen a dozen times already and two lesser known titles that are equally fine.
The most famous of three, of course, is the 1926 FLESH AND THE DEVIL, Garbo's third film in Hollywood for MGM and her first to co-star her with John Gilbert. At the time there was no question about who was the bigger star: Gilbert was a huge box office draw and his name is above the title. According to film lore, Garbo was not eager to make the film. Her sister had recently died in Sweden and the film's schedule prevented her from being with her family at that time; perhaps more to the point for the ever-practical Garbo, she disliked the role, which she considered "just another vamp." Gilbert, however, was interested in doing a film with Garbo, the studio twisted her arm, and the result was a film with love scenes that were shocking for their day. Although her previous films had indicated her powers, it was really this film that made her a major star. It also prompted her love affair with John Gilbert, which would run off and on for many years. It is also unexpectedly homoerotic.
The story concerns two friends, played by John Gilbert and Lars Hanson, whose attachment seems to be of the hands-on variety: they hug each other, fondle each other, and in general cavort to a point at which one expects them to play a semi-nude love scene at any moment. But then Garbo tempts Gilbert, who is drawn away from his friend and finds himself caught up in a duel that sends him into exile in Africa. Upon his return he finds Hanson has married Garbo. What can he do, torn between the men--er, man and woman--he loves the most? The ending that resolves the problem is quite unexpected, expecially by standards of the day. The original ending was so questionable that alternative ending was shot to soften the whole thing and shown in many markets.
Of the other two films, THE TEMPTRESS was made in the same year as FLESH AND THE DEVIL, and it is very likely the film she had in mind when she said her role in FLESH AND THE DEVIL was too much like her earlier films. In this tale, Garbo plays a woman married to a fop she dislikes--and who falls in love with one of her husband's friends. One can certainly see the similarity, but the two films are quite different, with Antonio Moreno quite a different type from Gilbert, and the story involving Garbo tricking her husband into helping her pursue Moreno all the way to Argentia, where she does everything from provoke a fight with bull whips to precipitate a murder. Like FLESH AND THE DEVIL, the conclusion was so completely uncompromising that an alternative ending was shot for markets which couldn't handle the original.
THE MYSTERIOUS LADY was made somewhat later in Garbo's career, in 1928, and it is quite different from the other two films offered here. In this particular film Garbo is a spy whose interest in Conrad Nagel begins as purely professional but soon progresses into true love. When Nagel discovers the truth, she declares her love for him--but rejects her and she revenges herself upon him by stealing the top secret papers he carries. Nagel is subsequently court martialed and drummed out of the army, but he sets out to redeem himself by recovering the papers. When he once more meets Garbo, he finds that she loves him still--and that she is repentant and willing to help him recover the papers, assuming that neither of them get shot first. It is an interesting film, very atypical of Garbo's movies, and perhaps all the more fascinating for that.
All three films offer audio tracks of varying interest; FLESH AND THE DEVIL and THE TEMPTRESS include their alternative endings; and there are a number of other tidbits besides. The visual elements of THE MYSTERIOUS LADY are somewhat weak, but it is no less watchable for that. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If you're not familiar with Garbo, start here, because this is a great introduction. All three feature films include commentary that is insightful and stays on track. The commenters do not meander off into side issues as is often the case.
When TCM put this set together they apparently took the same approach as they did with Lon Chaney Collection: The Ace of Hearts; Laugh, Clown, Laugh; The Unknown. Plus Documentary Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces. that was released about the same time. In both cases, they are not giving you the absolute best that the artist did, but are trying to give you a sample of their works with one extremely good film (in this case "The Flesh and the Devil").
"The Temptress" is the film that I liked the least. Made before "Flesh and the Devil", you may be slightly annoyed that Garbo is not as much the center of attention that she is in the other two. "Flesh and the Devil" is of course the center attraction here, with this being the beginning of the Garbo/Gilbert collaboration that was so successful onscreen. Finally, there is 1928's "The Mysterious Lady" made as the silent era was waning with Garbo starring opposite Conrad Nagel. The commenter notes how much Nagel looks like John Gilbert in this film and wonders if this is why he was chosen to star with Garbo.
If you are already familiar with Garbo, don't buy this separately. Go straight to Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection (Anna Christie / Mata Hari / Grand Hotel / Queen Christina / Anna Karenina / Camille / Ninotchka / Garbo Silents). It is a perfect boxed set of films in every way, and this entire set of silents is included in it. Plus there is an entire disc dedicated to a documentary about Garbo.
I would still like to see another set of Garbo silents, since there is so much good work still out there that she did at MGM that is not on DVD - A Woman of Affairs, The Single Standard, Wild Orchids, and The Kiss come to mind. It is somewhat ironic that one of the extras in the set is a featurette on TCM's Young Composers Contest. This is a competition in which young musicians score part of a silent film and the winner goes on to score an entire silent film in the TCM library that is then premiered on TCM. That competition has now been eliminated, and is one of the reasons that Warner Home Video has not releasing any more silents. Releasing the films I mentioned would bypass that problem since they were all made with a Movietone score and synchronous sound effects, something that was popular in the non-dialogue films released in 1928 and 1929.