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Kismet (1955)


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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted September 20 2006 - 12:13 AM

Where in the world is Kismet on dvd? It was released on vhs years and years ago and seemed to sell well. But no dvd. Hmm. I asked around; some people suspect that anti-Middle Eastern sentiment puts this film out of the public eye at present. If that's true, I strongly disagree: it's just a silly Arabian Nights fantasy, not a condemnation of Iraq (the movie supposedly takes place in Baghdad, circa the 1300s.) I don't recall the world coming to an end the last time Aladdin came out on dvd, so let's get on with it.

Others speculate that a lot of restoration work needs to be done in this movie. Well, get to it, Warners. What are you waiting for? The war in Iraq to end? That's at least two years away, and I'm tired of waiting.

Racist worries aside, this film deserves the best dvd release it can get. After all, the current vhs version is one of the worst-looking tapes in the history of the world. All of you who own it will agree; the pan-and-scan work is some of the worst, ever! The colors are badly muted and blurred; the film as a whole looks twice its age. This movie deserves to be seen in all its widescreen, technicolor glory. I hope for a two disc set that can include:

The 1940s Kismet, non-musical version, with Marlene Dietrich. I don't think this movie has ever been on dvd either. I think I've seen it on vhs, but maybe it was a public domain cheapie? Anyone remember?

Musical outtake: "Rhymes Have I" This song was recorded and exists on the CD, but I don't think it was actually filmed; I could be wrong??

Deleted Scene: The complete version of "Radhadlakum" (1st half was filmed, but cut before movie's release. Only the 2nd half, or the chorus of this naughty little song made it into theaters) If the footage still exists, maybe they can edit a complete version of this song, more or less the way they restored "If I Only Had a Brain" from the Wizard of Oz.

The Films of Howard Keel: Documentary. I think Howard has been a little underestimated over the years, in terms of his contribution MGM musicals. It's hard to believe that his name isn't up there with the best of the best, but he accomplished so much. I was thinking, when Howard Keel died, that they'd release some sort of "best of" dvd collection for him, which might have included "Kiss Me Kate," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Jupiter Darling" (also needs a dvd!) and of course "Kismet." Howard sure did star in some popular musicals, now didn't he? Posted Image
 

 


#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Charles H

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Posted September 20 2006 - 02:52 AM

It would be great to see a triple discer of this: the 1930 version -- if it exists-- with Loretta Young & Otis Skinner, who originated the title role and the 1944 Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich and songs by Harold Arlen. I've always liked the Keel version, although it's a bit operatic for the usual MGM musical tastes. Minnelli was rather uncomfortable with the film (not show busy enough for him) and much of it was filmed by Charles Walters.
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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted September 20 2006 - 03:25 AM

I think Minnelli left just the last week of shooting and the film was completed by Staley Donen. Minnelli was there for most of it. He hated the show and told MGM he didn;t want to make the movie. they strongarmed him and told him he could only go on location to Europe to make lust forLife if he made Kismet first. Rhymes Have I was filmed and was cut so late in the game, that the orignal pressbook still thinks its in the movie. Aphoto of this number is often used in books about musicals. I've heard that Turner found the numbe a few years ago. They DO have the long intro to Rhahadlakum, cut from the film.

#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Mark B

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Posted September 20 2006 - 04:45 AM

Thanks for the info, Joe. Hopefully the missing bits will find their way to dvd.

#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted September 20 2006 - 07:23 AM

The film looked decent on Laserdisc and the sound was okay but weird with strange reverb every time a musical number came in. however, theres a better version running on TCM with better color and without the weird reverb on the music.

#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted September 20 2006 - 09:13 AM

I agree. The laser is OK in video, but the TCM version could be released as is (with an anamorphic transfer, of course), and I'd be satisfied. It isn't in Technicolor, by the way. They used Eastmancolor with the 1955 KISMET. The Dietrich/Coleman version is Technicolor.

#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Danny Burk

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Posted September 20 2006 - 12:09 PM

The 1930 version is lost, but the 1920 silent (also starring Skinner) is still with us.

#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted September 22 2006 - 01:10 AM

Joe; thank you for the info. I thought they never did film "Rhymes." I have the 90s music cd, and it implies that it wasn't filmed. I did know that the complete "Radhadlakum" was floating around somewhere, though. These two outtakes are a MUST for a dvd release!! I thought the 1955 was in Technicolor...it's in Eastmancolor? That may explain why the old vhs looks so lousy. But the pan and scan in that is so ridiculous...the grain is impossible and the contrast is awful. This film deserves better. I have yet to run across the TCM version; do they air it in widescreen? If it's looking okay, then perhaps the film isn't in dire need of any restoration. I've only EVER seen the film in my yucky old vhs, and it made me think that the film is in poor condition. However, I've seen widescreen clips of the three princesses popping out of their box (probably in "That's Dancing" or somewhere) that look pretty good, so maybe all is well with the film. And Minnelli hated a lot of his films that I like. I think he only liked films that he could add a personal touch to...he probably just didn't like the idea of filming a Broadway show, or something that people had certain expectations about. But the irony is that he exceeded my expectations about what a filmed "Kismet" should be. However good the play is, the movie is twice as good. As I was saying, though, I hope it's not some Middle East bias that's preventing a release. That seems preposterous to me, even in wartime. I hope I'm terribly wrong about this; but musical theatre folks that I know do speculate about this often. I sing in musical theatre for several different venues in my county and everytime someone proposes we do "Kismet," others say, "oh no, we can't do that because of the war," and they wind up doing "Oklahoma" instead. Bah!
 

 


#9 of 23 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted September 22 2006 - 03:41 AM

Well, six months ago I appeared in the chorus of a local production of "Kismet" put on by an opera company (even though I've had no formal training as a singer, I still managed to pull it off adequately). We deliberately decided to leave all anachronistic references to current events out, and I think that was the right decision.

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I am going to boycott The Walt Disney Company until then. And while you're at it, PLEASE stop dropping DVD/laserdisc extras from Blu-ray releases of other films.


#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted September 22 2006 - 05:07 AM

In New York, the group Encores! at City Center did a concert version of "Kismet" earlier this year. I suspect they did it not in spite of the war, but because of it. They tend to be left wing in the NYC theatrical community (VERY left wing), and they liked lines such as: "If it is ordained that I am to die in Baghdad, how can I resist my fate?" "By staying out of Baghdad." That line, of course, got applause -- started on purpose, I expect, and not as loud or prolonged as they probably hoped. There was also (from the song "Not Since Nineveh"): "Baghdad! Don't underestimate Baghdad!" Whatever their motivation, it was a particularly lackluster rendition of "Kismet" (with the book cut down so much, it was almost incoherent, and the great score rather poorly sung.)

#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted September 22 2006 - 09:07 AM

Yes, TCM shows the widescreen version, and the laserdisc is also letterboxed appropriately. I burned a DVD-R of the TCM version because it was sharper than the laserdisc. As I said earlier, I've seen a lot of DVDs that look a lot worse than the TCM transfer of KISMET. If an anamorphic version of that transfer could be made available, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Jack Theakston

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Posted September 22 2006 - 10:08 AM

Unfortunately, color by Metrocolor (may have been Tech in the UK, though). 1955's KISMET also boasted a 3-track stereo track as well as a Perspecta track. Subsequently, the negative has probably faded.
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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted September 22 2006 - 11:24 AM

kismet was not three track stereo, but fourtrack with a surround. I have seen it this way.

#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Jack Theakston

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Posted September 22 2006 - 12:05 PM

Oops! Mea culpa! Thanks, Joe.
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted September 22 2006 - 09:22 PM

The sound on the vhs is adequate. I do believe they did some minor restoration work on the soundtrack after the vhs came out, which explains why the CD release sounded brand spankin' new! I hate hearing about Kodak fading...sigh... I'm all for Technicolor. If it's fading then they'd better hurry up.
 

 


#16 of 23 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted September 23 2006 - 12:16 PM

Do you recall much activity in the surround, Joe? I love all the early Scopes but the surround track on most DVD's is usually an echo mixed from the front 3. Given that the surround track was then dubbed "audience participation" and made much of in advertisments as part of the "Scope experience",I'm sure they would have been used far more extensively.

#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted September 23 2006 - 08:38 PM

Wasn't it the surround track called "auditorium effects" or something like that? At any rate, by 1956 only 25% of CinemaScope theatres in North America could play magnetic sound. According to John Belton, as early as June 1954 theatre industry groups were campaigning Fox to make them release CinemaScope films with optical soundtracks. Installing new screens, and getting anamorphic projector lenses was fine for most theatre owners, but the audio 'half' of 'Scope was deemed not worth it. There are memos by Darryl Zanuck telling (Fox) directors / producers etc to ensure the surround channel was used more often, and more creatively. Zanuck's directive obviously didn't work that well, if more films used the effects track, then theatre owners possibly would've thought it was more essential to the format. I'm surprised / disapointed by many DVDs that supposedly preserve the effects track, but don't make much use of it. Ironically one of my favourite DVDs that makes good use of the effects channel is for the Jean Negulesco film The Best of Everything. Characters sometimes walk over to the window of their Manhattan office building, they open the window, and the sound of the street starts coming from the surround track, even though the space is never shown. Back to Kismet, I would buy it in a second if it was released. Minnelli's CinemaScope films are all great. Well all those that I've seen.

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted September 23 2006 - 11:23 PM

Most of those early scope films don't have a lot of surround at all. As I recall, the Kismet surround had orchestra and some chorus during all of the songs. that was unusual for MGM as their other musicals do not. This would vary by studio and often within a studio. Good example - Rodgers and Hammersteins King and I and Carousel - both musicals released in 1956 by Fox. King and I seems to have surrounds during all of the songs and at a few other moments. Carousel has almost nothing on the surrounds at all. warners seemed to have the most surrounds - not a lot by todays standards, but compared to other studios.

#19 of 23 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted September 26 2006 - 09:41 AM

I still think that we are being short changed with the surround tracks in these early Scopes. When you read Zanuck's praise of the use of surround(then called "AP"for short) in "Battle Cry" and you hear nothing on the Dvd or contempory reviews report surround all around you or some such and , again silence on the DVD, something is wrong. Have the surround tracks been saved or as seems likely, what we get is just mixed down from the front tracks?.

#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Jack Theakston

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Posted September 26 2006 - 01:28 PM

Stereo releases were originally with discreet, magnetic soundtracks, and because of certain technical limitations, they don't encode well to Dolby. You really have to hear them in their original form to "experience" it.
-J. Theakston




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