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Edmund Goulding
Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone
Writing Credits:
Vicki Baum (play, "Menschen im Hotel"), William A. Drake (play, American version)

In this great screen drama, the glitz and glitter of Berlin's opulent Grand Hotel comes alive with its star-studded guests and employees: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
German Monaural
Italian Monaural
Castillian Spanish Monaural
Latin Spanish Monaural
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/8/2013

• Audio Commentary with
• “Checking Out Grand Hotel” Documentary
• Premiere Newsreel
• “Just a Word of Warning” Theatre Announcement
• Vitaphone Musical Short “Nothing Ever Happens”
• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Grand Hotel [Blu-Ray] (1932)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2013)

One of the earliest Oscar Best Picture winners, 1932’s Grand Hotel comes set in the best and most expensive spot in Berlin. The film quickly introduces us to a large roster of characters and their lives.

Initially we hear these stories via phone calls. Baron von Geigern (John Barrymore) runs low on funds and contrives some plot to regain money. General Director Preysing (Wallace Beery) feels dependent on a big merger that will allow his business to sink or swim. With only a short time to live, Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) wants to go out with a bang and plans an elaborate stay at the hotel. Senf the porter (Jean Hersholt) worries about his pregnant wife.

A few other characters emerge after this rapid introduction. Doctor Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) hangs out in the lobby and waits for some news to come. The famous dancer Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) holes up in her room; preoccupied with an external event, she feels tired and doesn’t want to perform. A stenographer named Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) comes to work for Preysing on his merger.

The film follows their interlocking lives, particularly as they connect to the Baron. He makes friends with Kringelein and hits on Flaemmchen, who quickly becomes smitten. We soon learn that the Baron plans to steal a string of pearls when the depressed Grusinskaya goes to perform. When she catches him, he declares his love for her, and this launches a love triangle with Flaemmchen. In the meantime, Preysing’s merger runs into snags and causes him consternation.

Hotel maintains a lot of stories, director Edmund Goulding connects them all surprisingly smoothly. Of course, it helps that some tales become more prominent than others. The Baron acts as the thread that ties together the components, as he interacts or connects with all the others. This means that the love triangle enjoys the top billing, and some of the additional tales rarely pop up at all. Even with his dire prognosis, Kringelein exists as little more than comic relief, and both Otternschlag and Senf vanish for extended periods of the flick.

Despite those inconsistencies, Hotel meshes together pretty well. No, it’s not much more than broad soap opera, but it’s good one. The film embraces melodrama without hesitation and seems more entertaining than it might be if it beat around the bush.

Part of that sense comes from the acting style of the time. The performances are all so wide and florid that they seem somewhat off-putting at first. However, once one gets accustomed to the style, the work becomes significantly more acceptable and intriguing.

A lot of Hotel’s success stems from its tight editing and its visual style. The film moves smoothly and briskly between the various elements and allows us to connect cleanly to the different pieces. It also demonstrates a rather inventive pictorial style. We get some grand shots of the setting and also an interesting sense of choreography that sometimes places the participants in unusually close proximity. These tight close-ups heighten the drama.

Again, Grand Hotel comes as nothing more than a soap opera. Nonetheless, it piques one’s interest and remains consistently intriguing. It balances different stories and characters well and provides a fairly entertaining drama.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Grand Hotel appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film held up quite well despite its age.

Though never razor-crisp, sharpness was more than acceptable. Parts of the movie seemed a nit soft, though more than a handful of these appeared intentionally hazy; it looked like the director wanted to use soft focus on the leading ladies. Most shots demonstrated reasonable to good clarity, though; again, the image didn’t display tremendous definition, but it offered pretty nice accuracy overall.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. With a lot of grain along the way, I saw no issues with digital noise reduction, and print flaws were virtually absent. The restoration managed to clean up the movie nicely and eliminate distracting specks, marks and debris.

Black levels mostly seemed dark and dense, and contrast appeared solid in general. The movie usually showed a nicely silver appearance, though it turned a bit gray at times. Low-light shots were pretty well-defined, and actually offered some of the film’s more attractive moments. For example, when we first met Grusinskaya in the dark, the image was quite clear and firm. Though not the most dazzling presentation of an old film I’ve seen, I still felt quite impressed with the attractive image of Grand Hotel.

As for the monaural soundtrack of Grand Hotel, it seemed pretty solid given the flick’s era. Speech demonstrated good clarity and suffered from no signs of edginess. The lines were easily intelligible and relatively natural. Effects played a small role in the proceedings, but they sounded clean and distinctive, without any significant distortion.

Music showed up quite frequently throughout the movie but generally in a background role. That meant the music rarely showed much power and usually seemed a bit thin and dinky. Still, these elements were acceptably clean and bright. Light background noise appeared throughout the film, but the hiss never became a real distraction. In the end, the audio seemed more than fine for a movie from 1932.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the original 2004 DVD? Audio was similar; the Blu-ray may’ve been a little more dynamic, but there wasn’t much that could be done with the 80-year-old stems. On the other hand, the visuals showed improved clarity, definition and cleanliness. While I can’t say the Blu-ray blew away the DVD, it nonetheless created a more accurate representation of the source.

A mix of old and new extras fills out the set. New to the Blu-ray, we find an audio commentary from film historians Jeffrey Vance and Mark A. Vieira. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of the original novel and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast, crew and performances, sets and cinematography, censorship issues, and aspects of the film’s era.

While the piece can be a little spotty at times, Vance and Vieira usually deliver a satisfying historical chat. They cover a good array of topics and do so in a fairly enjoyable manner. They fade a bit too much on occasion, but they still give us enough info to make the commentary worthwhile.

A featurette called Checking Out Grand Hotel goes for 12 minutes, 20 seconds and includes interviews with actors Maureen O’Sullivan, key MGM hair designer Sydney Guilaroff, and MGM executive Joseph J. Cohn. We learn about the flick’s origins, casting, heat on the set, and changes made to the final piece. It’s a quick but tight little evaluation of the project.

Next we find a Premiere Newsreel. It lasts nine minutes, 24 seconds and shows the movie’s gala showing in Hollywood. We see those involved with Hotel and other celebrities of the era as they arrive at the theater. It’s an interesting piece of history.

In the same vein, ”Just a Word of Warning” presents a “theatre announcement”. This one-minute, 15-second clip alerts us that Hotel will only play for a few more weeks at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I’d better get there quick!

We also get a Vitaphone musical short entitled Nothing Ever Happens that runs 18 minutes and 50 seconds. It’s a little spoof of Hotel that’s campy but surprisingly amusing. The disc ends with trailers for Hotel as well as 1945’s Week-End at the Waldorf.

One of the earliest Oscar-winners, Grand Hotel holds up surprisingly well after 80 years. The melodrama presents an intriguing tale that consistently remains interesting. The Blu-ray presents impressive visuals, more than acceptable audio and a small but useful set of supplements. I like the movie and feel pleased with this Blu-ray.

To rate this film visit the original review of GRAND HOTEL

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