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Kiss Me Kate, a little review


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#1 of 29 DeeF

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Posted April 16 2003 - 05:31 AM

I didn't see any other review here, so...

I'm sure this movie is quite familiar to y'all, but I've purchased the brand-new DVD, and it is completely splendid, so I thought I'd write up a little review here. Feel free to chime in with exuberance or loathing.

I've seen the movie before, on television, but the quality of the DVD and my large, wonderful television has really changed by perceptions of the movie. On my set, the colors are so vivid, the costumes and sets really pop, and the actors' expressions are more natural and professional than I remembered. In addition, the DVD has been remixed in glorious 5.1 stereo (it was never in stereo before), so it sounds better than it has ever sounded. The movie was filmed for 3D, but by the time it was released, 3D was already over, so it was only shown in 3D in a couple of venues.

Kiss Me Kate is undeniably "lighter" material, long on setups and punchlines and short on character development. But as updated "vaudeville," I think it works very well, partly because of its ingenious construction (part backstage drama, part onstage drama, neatly integrated) and mostly because of its superior, and very beautiful, score, including rich numbers like "So In Love" and snappy tunes like "Too Darn Hot." Cole Porter could do high character songs and low comedy songs with equal ease, and he has never dazzled so bright as in this show (and the movie, which surprisingly uses most of the score intact -- not using "Another Opening..." except as underscoring, dumping "Bianca" -- thank goodness -- and interpolating "From This Moment On" for a dance number).

The movie does make some odd choices, like setting up "So In Love" before the show starts, adding a character named Cole Porter (the actor Ron Randell, from Australia, also appeared on DVD this month in King of Kings, as a Roman Centurion), and the oddest thing to me, having a live audience laughing and clapping at certain things but not at others. I might have had a live audience clap throughout the "show," but I'm used to sitcoms.

One wishes the acting, overall, were better, and yet truthfully, Howard Keel was never better, and this must be the role of Kathryn Grayson's career. Ann Miller was no actress (and if she's the best thing in this movie, it isn't saying much for the quality of acting) but she was a stock MGM player, so her casting isn't a real surprise (though a year older than Grayson, Ann plays Lois, the young paramoor of Fred). I wish Keel sang more straightforwardly; he always sounds to me like he has potatoes in his mouth, the sound is so far back in the throat. Grayson's voice has its appeal, but stylistically she's a throwback to operettas -- all that portamento is really grating. Keel must be huge -- he towers over Grayson and Rall and Fosse and everybody else. Ann Miller is there mostly for the dancing, but what dancing!

Everyone remembers this show for the dancing (the movie, I mean) and it is first rate, the reason to buy the movie (at $14.99, a steal). The choreographer was Hermes Pan, who appears as a sailor in the movie (he looks like Fred Astaire). For all the fuss of Bob Fosse's little bit with Carol Haney, the rest of the choregraphy by Pan is just as fun, and it is so energetic and precise! It's as good as anything in Singin' in the Rain, and it has more variety. I loved Tommy Rall's whole duet with Ann when he's on the trampoline.

There is a small documentary (about 7 minutes long) on each of these new Cole Porter DVDs. Ann Miller provides the commentary for this one, and we see James Whitmore, Tommy Rall, Kathryn Grayson, and Howard Keel all reminiscing (very worth it) about Bobby Van and Bob Fosse and Carol Haney and the whole megilla. On the Silk Stockings DVD, it's Cyd Charisse, and on the Les Girls DVD, it's Taina Elg!

I can't recommend this movie (and the other Cole Porter DVDs) enough.

Edit: Kathryn Grayson is a year older than Ann Miller, according to the IMDB.

#2 of 29 Jefferson

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Posted April 16 2003 - 07:28 AM

Thanks, DeeF. Good words about a fun film.
And this comment
Quote:
I wish Keel sang more straightforwardly; he always sounds to me like he has potatoes in his mouth, the sound is so far back in the throat.

Posted Image
That is perfect, i thought it was just me!


but....Wasn't in stereo?
I have two different VHS versions
of this title in stereo,
and the 3D print i saw in 2001 in NY was
stereo.
i was always impressed with how it sounded.

#3 of 29 DeeF

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Posted April 16 2003 - 08:06 AM

I think this was MGM's very first movie released in stereo, so presumably it has always been this way. But I don't own VHS tapes of it, and I've only seen it on TV, so getting the DVD with 5.1 separation (although virtually nothing in the rear channels) is just a huge pleasure.

One extra feature I forgot to mention is the isolated music track. You can watch the movie with no dialogue, just the score, and it sounds even better! Don't know why this is, but...

Conrad Salinger and Andre Previn were just geniuses. These guys are the unsung orchestrators who could make little ditties sound like Brahms.

#4 of 29 Jefferson

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Posted April 16 2003 - 08:42 AM

Posted Image Posted Image

WOW! That is great news, Dee F
Thanks.

#5 of 29 Jesse Skeen

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Posted April 16 2003 - 10:30 AM

No 3-D, No Sale! Posted Image
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#6 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 16 2003 - 09:38 AM

Kate was released in magnetic 3 track stereo (I believe) when the 3D version came out which I saw as a kid in NYC. I saw a 3D presentation in the 80s at the Tiffany Theatre in LA (two projectors synced) and it was in stereo. Rhino released the soundtrack CD plus lots of extra goodies in stereo a few years ago.

#7 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 16 2003 - 09:40 AM

Whle Andre Previn was/is a very good orchestrator, nobody can hold a candle to Salinger. He was sensational.

#8 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 16 2003 - 09:43 AM

Hey Jesse,

Your post keeps dropping down a space after I did the above two.. What's going on?Posted Image

#9 of 29 GregK

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Posted April 16 2003 - 12:30 PM

Following up on what Peter said, it sounds like Warner Brothers simply ported over the original L/C/R mag tracks ala Dolby Digital, but coded it as DD 5.1 instead of 3.0. (Universal did it right with "It Came From Outer Space" and correctly coded the audio as DD 3.0.) Most of the original 1950's stereo mixes were three channel or four channel, but even most of the four channel mixes generally had little action in the surround "effects" track.

And yes, I too lament WB's wasted opportunity not to include a 3-D version along with the 2-D flat issue... Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ..But unlike "Jaws 3-D", this film is still good without depth. Posted Image

#10 of 29 Patrick McCart

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Posted April 16 2003 - 12:37 PM

Since this is a catalog title (and not exactly one of the bigger ones), they probably couldn't get the technical aspect worked out. They'd end up doing the 3-D version at a high cost (they'd need field sequential equipment), then have to make the DVD double-sided. Then, only a few people would get to see it in 3-D due to the glasses only being in a small number of homes.

If you don't wish to see it in the original 3-D format, that's understandable.... but it's not like WB will ever do a 3-D version. This is probably THE DVD we're getting of Kiss Me Kate unless they decide to license it to Slingshot.

#11 of 29 GregK

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Posted April 16 2003 - 12:51 PM

The bummer about WB is companies have approached the studio regarding licensing out the older 3-D titles, but Warners has always declined. I was hoping this meant that WB was planning an eventual 3-D video line-up. But the flat only release of "Kiss Me Kate" and "House of Wax" later this fall have dashed those hopes.

#12 of 29 Greg_M

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Posted April 16 2003 - 12:51 PM

How did "Silk Stockings" look? the laserdisc was lacking in color.

#13 of 29 Joe Caps

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Posted April 16 2003 - 11:55 PM

First Time in Stereo? Ihave two different VHS of Kiss in stereo and three different laserdisc versions in stereo.
Apparently you were not interested in the film enough to catch the one million and one showings on TCM - al stereo of courrse

#14 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 17 2003 - 12:49 AM

Anyone know which "side" they used to master the DVD - the left or right? Posted Image

Re: Silk Stockings. The film always had muted colors.

#15 of 29 DeeF

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Posted April 17 2003 - 02:28 AM

Alright, so I was wrong about the stereo. I was just trying to show my newly found enthusiasm for this movie. It looks and sounds better than ever, to me.

And honestly, I can't stand 3D anyway, so I'm happy to have this movie in this nice little package.

#16 of 29 SteveP

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Posted April 17 2003 - 05:04 AM

Ann Miller throwing things at the camera always seemed to me the best excuse for the entire 3-D process.

The most recent 3-D print I saw of KISS ME KATE at the Film Forum in New York City about two years ago was in stereo.

#17 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 17 2003 - 05:15 AM

Quote:
Ann Miller throwing things at the camera always seemed to me the best excuse for the entire 3-D process.


Jane Russell did the same thing in a 1954 3D film called "The French Line"

J.R. in 3D. It'll knock both your eyes out!

#18 of 29 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted April 17 2003 - 06:02 AM

I saw "The French Line" last year in dual-projection 3D.

It was, indeed, a dual knockout!
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#19 of 29 Jesse Skeen

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Posted April 17 2003 - 06:42 AM

I'll say it again- if they can do Camp Blood in 3-D, they can do this.
I've got "The Stewardesses" on VHS in field-sequential 3-D, it's a softcore flick from 1969 Posted Image
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#20 of 29 Peter Kline

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Posted April 17 2003 - 06:47 AM

Jesse,

The Stewardesses was a very interesting film. Not because of the content but because after it opened in an Los Angeles Theatre, it did so well that the producers kept adding scenes to the film every few months to get people to go back. (I saw it twice, "he said sheepishly"). This was waaaaaaay before Disney did it with their animated flicks for DVD.





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