Looking at original 'Dragon Tattoo' trilogy and Robert Montgomery's early career on video

You may be a fan of the "Dragon Tattoo" trilogy, but unless you've seen the films in their original Swedish versions, you don't fully know the series. For example, I've received outraged letters from fans of the first "Dragon Tattoo" film saying that David Fincher's American version corrupted the ending of the original Swedish film. But, in fact, these letters are complaining about things that were in the Swedish version -- as it was seen in Sweden -- and then cut from the American release.

Swedish television must really be something. Most of Ingmar Bergman's later films started out in long TV versions, then were cut by at least a third for theatrical release worldwide. The "Dragon Tattoo" series, meanwhile, was made up of six installments (two for each novel), each clocking in at almost 90 minutes. So the material for each of the three movies was cut from approximately three hours of content.

Sometimes the cuts were beneficial and streamlined the story ("The Girl Who Played With Fire" was better shorter), but sometimes the extra length was a virtue ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"). In addition, the set includes a 53-minute documentary about novelist Stieg Larsson and his work and behind-the-scenes footage.

Seen in its entirety, the series has the languorous feel of something made for television. If you have a Blu-ray player, get the Blu-ray. It looks great and can be found online for much less than the list price.

"THE ROBERT MONTGOMERY COLLECTION." (VARIOUS DATES. NOT RATED. THE WARNER ARCHIVE. $54.95.)

This four-disc set from the Warner Archive resurrects the early (and most interesting) part of Robert Montgomery's career. Circa 1930-31, he was the exemplar of the new young man, and as such he was loved by young women and loathed by older adults who worried about what the new generation was coming to. His films -- on his own and with some of MGM's most important leading ladies -- walked the edge of what was considered modern and acceptable.

"Faithless" (1932), the best film on this set, pairs him with Tallulah Bankhead in a story of people who lose everything in the Depression. She ends up becoming a prostitute to get him medical treatment after an injury, and the conclusion of the film, in which he discovers what his wife has been doing, shocked the moralists of the time.

Then there is "The Man in Possession" (1931), co-starring the unknown (even then) Irene Purcell, in which she and Montgomery jump into bed within hours of meeting each other. And if you want to see what a cool guy looked like in 1933, see Montgomery in "Made on Broadway."

Also worth seeing: "Lovers Courageous" (1932, with Madge Evans), "But the Flesh Is Weak" (1932, with Nora Gregor) and "Shipmates" (1931, with Dorothy Jordan). Montgomery's image was that of a young man who was good-looking and urbane, yet morally slack and occasionally rendered goofy with discomfort. Cary Grant followed in his footsteps.

(mlasalle(at)sfchronicle.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)

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