Mata Hari [1931]

Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 89 minutes

She's a household name that conjures up international intrigue and wartime espionage, predatory sexuality and fatal passion. So how is it that none of the several movies titled Mata Hari is very satisfying? This Greta Garbo vehicle is much less interesting than the 1931 Sternberg-Dietrich film Dishonored (whose doomed spy lady went by the name X-27). The divine Swede plays the Javanese-Dutch exotic dancer who romances a Russian aviator in perfumed Paris on behalf of German intelligence. It's typical that the Balinese temple harness Garbo almost wears in the first nightclub number looks sexier in stills than it does in motion: Mata Hari is less a film than the idea for a film. George Fitzmaurice's direction is static, silent-era holdover Ramon Navarro makes a cookie-dough leading man, and the feisty Karen Morley (as Mata's secret-agent colleague) exits the picture much too soon. The gowns--and harness?--are by Adrian. --Richard T. Jameson

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