The Good

No stone has been left unturned in this very comprehensive box set.

The Bad

It was a tad confusing navigating around all the supplemental materials.

Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection is the kind of release that really stands out in the DVD marketplace. When one looks at the all movies that are released every week, it would be easy to see DVD as a sort of “fast food” commodity. Then the 10 disc

Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection comes along and it makes even the harshest of critics stand up and take notice. This collection features Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Camille, Ninotchka and collection of very popular Garbo silent films. This is truly the kind of collection that Garbo fans have been waiting for.

I had never seen any of Garbo’s movies until MovieWeb asked me to tackle this collection. While I admit that it does look very daunting, I really found myself taken with a lot of these movies. I loved the look of both Anna Christie and Grand Hotel. While I found Grand Hotel a tad hard to follow at times, I think Garbo was very good in Anna Christie. There is such a mystery about this woman who seems more known for “wanting to be alone” than for what she did on screen. Still, I really like how she conducted herself as an actress, because I honestly think she was more believable on screen due to how she lived off of it.

Features

Camille

On this disc they give us the 1921 silent film. While I can take or leave some silent films, I think it’s generally good for anybody interested in film to have a working knowledge of them. This version certainly has many merits as far as a piece of film history. The “Leo Is on the Air” radio promo reminded me that before TV and the internet, there was only one way to get into the homes America. This is worth listening to simply to be reminded of how in some ways, radio really played more to our imaginations because we were forced to think about what we were hearing.

Anna Christie

You’ve got to like a box set that not only gives you the main movie, but also another entirely different version of it. While I did more of a compare and contrast with these versions, I really was astounded with how well made both of these films are. While I am not always a fan of this kind of film or filmmaking, I really do take stock in seeing where it originated.

Grand Hotel

This is the movie that they have really gone out of their way to add bells and whistles to. We get “Checking Out: Grand Hotel,” which is a documentary of the making of the film. I liked this because I think we get to learn a bit more about Garbo, but we also get to see what production was like back in 1932. There is also a “Newsreel” documenting the Hollywood premiere of this movie. While I found it interesting, it is pretty standard in it’s coverage of the event. The last two things are “Just a Word of Warning” and “Nothing Ever Happens.” “Just a Word of Warning” is a theater announcement from 1932. Watching this, I wondered why more theaters don’t do this today, but then again the times are a lot different. “Nothing Ever Happens” is of all things a short spoof on “Grand Hotel.” Who in the world ever came up with this is beyond me, but at the very least the creators of the spoof found a very clever way to look at this movie in a different light.

TCM Archives: The Garbo Silents Collection

This collection includes The Temptress (1926), Flesh and the Devil (1927) and The Mysterious Lady (1928). There is a commentary track by "Garbo" author Barry Paris on Flesh and the Devil. There is also a commentary by "Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy" author Mark A. Vieira on The Temptress. Lastly, there is a commentary by film historians Tony Maietta and Jeffrey Vance on The Mysterious Lady. I skipped around on these mainly due to time purposes, but I am starting to think that the only people that should do commentary tracks are Directors, Producers and Film Historians. I say this because these people are the ones who seem to give the best insights. Especially, the Film Historians, who on these tracks really illuminate a lot about what was happening both on and off the screen. This isn’t a slam on actors at all, I just think Directors, Producers and Film Historians are so close to everything that is happening on a production, that they have the best stories and most interesting comments. They also include a part of the The Divine Woman, which is a nine minute piece from a Garbo silent that was lost. There is a “Photo Montage” of all three movies which is little more than just stills from those movies, but with all of the other content on this DVD this could be a nice primer before you actually watch the films. There are “Alternate Endings for Flesh and the Devil and The Temptress.” Lastly, we have “Settling the Score,” this is a look at a contest in which young composers in the “Turner Classic Movie Young Composers Competition” score silent movies. One of these films was a Garbo movie and what I found to be the most interesting was how younger people interpret these older movies. It really says something about someone when they see an image and have to create something musically that speaks to it.

Garbo

Narrated by Julie Christie this is a very in-depth documentary look at Greta Garbo’s life. Not very technical, it seems to fall into the the realm of a remembrance. They mix pictures, movie footage as well as people talking about Garbo, to really give this movie a sense of perspective. Of all the extras, I think this is my favorite mainly because it wasn’t intrusive to Garbo, and I still feel that I came away from it with a decent sense of mystery about the women.

Video

1.33:1. As these films are on the early end of filmmaking history, I don’t think we can fault them for being in full frame, and it would have been very bad if they had somehow superimposed the Widescreen bars on this box set. It’s interesting because obviously the silent films don’t look as good as the later movies, but I think that on the whole (for all 10 discs) they have done a tremendous job of cleaning up these movies so that they look really good. When you consider that movies like The Temptress and Flesh and Devil were made in the 1920s, the fact that the negatives for these movies have held up at all is really something that’s pretty amazing. This isn’t even mentioning their ability to tell the stories they do.

Audio

With so many types of audio spread out throughout all the movies and the collections of shorts, I chose to just focus on how the sound was overall. Amazingly, I didn’t have to turn up my TV set that loud for any of the movies I watched. Even the supplemental features were all leveled around the same, which is really impressive considering how old so much of this footage is. Also, for a lot of the shorts, I really liked the underlying music that was used. Short films can drag on sometimes and on a lot of them, especially when you have to read the title cards, it can almost be a debilitating experience. On the whole, I found the sound to be really put together and enhanced for Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection.

Package

Greta Garbo graces this cover looking every bit like the movie star that she was. While I am sure that there has been some “touching up,” she really does look striking in this photo. The back of Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection shows the covers for the movies that make up this box set, and underneath them are the names of those movies. Each film is housed individually in it’s own case. I really love the way the covers for these older movies look. Today, everything looks Photoshopped and fake, touched up to the point that it almost looks too good. These older movies have covers that have genuine artistry behind them. Not that I am slagging computers, I just think maybe art had a tad more soul before we (myself included) started relying on them.

Final Word

For fans of this collection, I would like to recommend the movie Garbo Talks. Helmed by Sidney Lumet this movie tells the tale of a man (Ron Silver) whose mother (Anne Bancroft) is dying of cancer. Her dying wish is to meet and talk with Greta Garbo. Now, this movie is more about Ron Silver learning to take charge of his life, but it really seems to speak to the persona of Greta Garbo. How we sometimes get caught up in who we think we should be, as opposed to who we really are. This is one of those movies that I really enjoy, even though there isn’t anything that great about it. It’s just people, there lives and their situations. I found that to be very similar in theme with the films in the Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection.

This DVD set is a true collector’s item and I am very proud to own Greta Garbo - The Signature Collection.

Anna Karenina was released August 30, 1935.