Friday, March 2, 2007

QUEEN CHRISTINA (MGM 1933) Warner Home Video

Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina (1933) is widely regarded as one of Greta Garbo’s last major filmic offerings of ambiguous sexuality prior to the installation of the production code which forbade such experimental heroines. The film, turgid in spots and rather maudlin throughout, is nevertheless justly famous for its final image; Garbo’s mysterious visage in extreme close-up – presumably thinking of nothing, yet confiding everything to the audience.
Plot wise: Christina ascends the Swedish throne of her late father at the tender age of five. Reared to be a monarch first and woman second, she adopts the masculine persona and attire, waging battles and fighting for the welfare of her people.

The queen’s trusted advisors; Oxensteirna (Lewis Stone) and Aage (C. Aubrey Smith) advise Christina to marry Charles of England (Reginald Owen) – an alliance fortuitous for both their countries. But Christina is perfectly content to live life on her own terms. She flirts with her loyal lady in waiting; then takes an uncharacteristic fancy to the Spanish Ambassaodor Antonio (John Gilbert) who at first erroneously believes she is a man.

At the time filming commenced, one time matinee idol John Gilbert had fallen from public favor. Garbo, who had fled MGM and the overwhelming spectacle of her own popularity the previous year, absolutely refused to do this film unless Gilbert – her one time lover - was cast as her fictional grand amour. MGM acquiesced, providing Gilbert with the role he is probably most readily associated with today. The scene in which Garbo slinks about a bedroom that she and Gilbert share at a country inn one snowy eve was cut by the censors upon the film’s re-release at the end of the 30s.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is rather disappointing. Working from print elements that are obviously less than stellar, the overall image is riddled with age related artifacts and is often quite softly focused and slightly blurry. Fine details are generally lost. Blacks are weak. Whites are rarely anywhere close to pristine. A slight hint of edge enhancement also exists. The audio is mono. An obvious background hiss exists during quiescent scenes. There are NO extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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