Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on February 26th, 2004
We are in a magnificent art deco hotel in Berlin. Here we come to know a disparate groupof characters: the world-weary ballerina (Garbo), the gentleman thief (John Barrymore), thedying man on a last spending binge (Lionel Barrymore), the scheming stenographer (JoanCrawford), and the unsavoury tycoon (Wallace Beery). These characters’ lives intersect andcollide over the course of a momentous night.
This is not the best-written Hollywood production. The plot is implau…ible. The charactersverge on the cartoon. Everything is go-for-broke and over-the-top. And that, combined with thelegendary cast, is why Grand Hotel remains so much fun. This is the soap opera to endall soap opera, melodrama on a colossal budget. The sets are jaw-dropping, the costumes divine,and Garbo is given her most famous line (“I want to be alone!”). Essential viewing.
The mono soundtrack hasn’t been touched, and that is very much for the best. A stereo remixof a track so early in the sound period (1932), with little music and fewer sound effects wouldhave been disastrous. The sound is certainly showing its age: the music under the opening creditsis a bit thin and reedy, and there is some background static. Not bad for a 70+-year-old film, butapproach with realistic expectations.
The picture is in much the same quality category as the sound. The print isn’t pristine: thereare some scratches and flicker during the credits, and the picture is noticeably grainy throughout.The image is reasonably sharp (all proportions maintained), and the grey tones are excellent, butwe’re a long way from the superlative picture quality that are available on releases of films just afew years older.
For a so-called “Special Edition,” the extras are pretty thin gruel. “Checking Out: GrandHotel” is a 12-minute behind-the-scenes story of the film. Informative, but hardly in-depth. Mostof the other features are vintage promotional material: a newsreel of the movie’s premiere, thetrailer, the “Just a Word of Warning” theatrical announcement, and a trailer for Week-Endat the Waldorf (the 1945 remake). An odd little extra is “Nothing Ever Happens” — amusical parody. The menu’s main screen is scored.
Grand, glossy MGM entertainment in the classic mould. The DVD could be beefed up,especially at the level of extras, but the movie more than makes up for these shortcomings.
Special Features List
- “Checking Out: Grand Hotel” Featurette
- Hollywood Premiere Newsreel
- “Just a Word of Warning” Theatrical Announcement
- Theatrical Trailer
- “Nothing Ever Happens” Short Feature
- Trailer for Week-End at the Waldorf