Customer Reviews: Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection (Anna Christie / Mata Hari / Grand Hotel / Queen Christina / Anna Karenina / Camille / Ninotchka / Garbo Silents)
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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.
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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.

Steve Charitan
Hudson, OH
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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.
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on September 7, 2007
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.
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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.
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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?
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on July 21, 2013
Garbo is still legend. She has a mystique that is still tangible today. Is she a good actress? I don't know, but she is an honest actress and physically embodies true emotion. In sound pictures, she is at times uncomfortable with dialogue and emotion. Physically she is very real, but whether it was a diconnect with the english language, or the fact that she perfected her craft in silent films and the transition was a little difficult, it is hard to say. I can say that when she is in tune with the words, she embodies her characters and she is physically and verbally remarkable. Garbo takes chances with her moments a lot of actors would be afraid to do. And I, for one, applaud those chances.
This collection is a fine example of some silents and her major sound films. From the silents to her first words in Anna Christie to "Garbo Laughs!" it is a fine collection
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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.
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on July 15, 2015
Greta Garbo is the portrait of the reclusive movie goddess shunning the media frenzy that fueled the public's interest in her. She is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars of the Golden Age, and definitely one of the most beautiful. The Divine Garbo, as her fans have nicknamed her, is showcased to her fullest in the Signature Collection, containing seven of her talkies, three of her silents, and a feature-length documentary.

''The Garbo Silents Collection'' is a two-disc collection containing three of her more popular silent features: The Temptress (1926/B&W/106 mins.), Flesh and the Devil (1926/B&W/112 mins.), and The Mysterious Lady (1928/B&W/89 mins.). Garbo came to Hollywood in 1925 with director Mauritz Stiller. She couldn't speak English very well and she was petrified about working at such a large place as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). These films capture Garbo at the early stages of her career, and co-star Antonio Moreno, John Gilbert, and Conrad Nagel, respectively.

The other seven movies are all sound movies, or talkies as they were called in the 1930s. All descriptions are taken (if not directly) from the DVD covers themselves.

Anna Christie (1930/B&W/89 mins.): The publicity slogan read ''Garbo Talks!'' Like Lon Chaney and Charlie Chaplin, Garbo had continued to make silents even though talkies were all the rage. Sixteen minutes or so into this movie, Garbo appears at the doorway of a bar, and after taking her seat, she utters her first piece of dialogue: ''Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy baby!'' Her husky voice added to her other-worldly allure. As Anna, she plays a former prostitute whose past choices may in fact ruin her chances at a happy future. As a bonus, the German-language version of the movie Garbo did with a different cast and director is included. Co-starring Charles Bickford and Marie Dressler. Directed by Clarence Brown.

Mata Hari (1931/B&W/89 mins.): Who better to play the WWI spy than Garbo, the divine star called the Swedish Sphinx? To answer, no one could have done it better. With the world at war, Mata Hari's heart (something she didn't know she possessed) is stolen by a handsome aviator. Love is her weapon, and the only men she couldn't seduce were the twelve in the firing squad that brought her turbulent life to a tragic end. Co-starring Ramon Navarro, Lionel Barrymore, and Lewis Stone.

Grand Hotel (1932/B&W/112 mins.): ''People come. People go. Nothing ever happens.'' This line offered a bit of irony to the movie's plot: yes people came and went, but something is always happening. Garbo (who gets top billing) plays a famous Russian dancer whose career is hitting the rocks. In a moment of depression, she utters the famous line ''I want to be alone.'' This was the first so-called ''all-star'' movie. Its rather long and slow-moving, but no one can deny this movie's grandness. Co-starring John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt. Directed by Edmund Goulding.

Queen Christina (1933/B&W/99 mins.): After more than a year away from movies, this was Garbo's return to the screen. ''Garbo Returns!'' was the tag line for the trailer. This was Garbo's first classic role. She plays the title role as the Swedish queen who rides into the countryside disguised as a man. There, she meets and falls in love with a dashing Hispanic man. They plan to marry, but she knows her people won't accept her marrying a foreigner. She must make a fateful decision. Co-starring John Gilbert and Lewis Stone. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

Anna Karenina (1935/B&W/93 mins.): Garbo portrays Anna Karenina for the second time (in 1927, she played her in Love), a dutiful wife and devoted mother, knows contentment but not passion. That changes when she meets ardent Count Vronsky. For him, she throws away her marriage, family, social position... and in the end, her very own life. Co-starring Fredric March and Maureen O'Sullivan. Directed by Clarence Brown.

Camille (1936/B&W/109 mins.): ''Garbo's best performance. Screen acting of the highest order.'' Perfectly cast as the courtesan Marguerite who becomes world renowned as Camille, Garbo is perhaps at her classic and elegant best her. Never more has she seemed so beautiful or mesmerizing. As it was once said, no one has ever looked better while dying from tuberculosis. Co-starring Robert Taylor and Lionel Barrymore. Directed by George Cukor.

Ninotchka (1939/B&W/110 mins.): ''Garbo Laughs!'' brought a freshness to Garbo's waning career in 1939. After years of dark romantic dramas, she finally delighted the world with a comedy. This is a hilarious tale of a Russian envoy sublimating her womanhood for Soviet brotherhood until she falls in love with a suave Parisian gentleman. Co-starring Melvyn Douglas and Ina Claire. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Garbo (2005/B&W and Color/86 mins.): This exclusive TCM documentary is rather interesting and very informative. It includes interviews with Garbo experts and with people that new her best. Her nieces and nephews even provide their opinions in some parts. However, if you're a die-hard Garbo fan, there isn't anything here that you won't already know. But, as I said, it is a very good documentary, especially if you're a newcomer to who and what Garbo was.

To summarize these movies isn't an easy task. Greta Garbo, although renowned in her day, has been criticized today for being an over-rated actress. Personally, I don't think she was over-rated, but whether you think she was or not falls with your own knowledge. This is an impressive set, but yet at the same time, it's somewhat disappointing. Garbo's better-known films are here (Grand Hotel, Camille, Ninotchka), but it would have been very nice to see some of her earlier films (Romance, Inspiration, As You Desire Me) here as well. Even her final movie, the ill-fated Two-Faced Woman (1941), should have been included. I understand that her better works had to be included here to assure a better profit for Warner Brothers, but it still saddens me a bit. Maybe another Garbo set will come out in the future, or even better, all of her films will be made available on DVD. Overall, this is a very nice and appealing set. The prints and audio of all films are crisp and clear. It definitely won't disappoint, especially at this price.
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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.
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