- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
By the time major studios and the larger independents were able to get their first big budget “prestige productions” using the 3D process into theaters, the 1950s 3D craze was nearly over. As a result some of the most enduring vintage 3D films of the era, such as Kiss Me Kate and Hondo were released just before the 3D wave ended or, in the case of Dial ‘M’ for Murder in the midst of its demise. As such, Kiss Me Kate is both a big budget MGM musical and a vintage 3D spectacle, and the only film ever produced that qualifies (and works) as both.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 PCM (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 50 Min.
Package Includes: 3D Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray case accommodating a single disc with both 3D and 2D versions of the film
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/03/2015
Kiss Me Kate
The Production Rating: 4/5
Directed by: George Sidney
Starring: Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Keenan Wynn, James Whitmore, Bobby Van, Bob Fosse , Kurt Kasznar, Willard Parker
Kiss Me Kate is a cinematic adaptation of the hit Cole Porter Broadway musical of the same name. Its "play within a film" structure follows the efforts of Director/Star Fred Graham (Keel) to stage a theatrical musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew with himself in the role of Petruchio and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Grayson) as Katherine. Fred’s efforts to woo back his ex-wife using the pretense of the play are complicated by Lilli’s recent engagement to cattle baron Tex Callaway (Parker), his ill advised promising of the role of Bianca to nightclub dancer Lois Lane (Miller), and the unwelcome backstage presence of a couple of gangsters (Wynn & Whitmore) intent on collecting a gambling debt incurred by Bill Calhoun (Rall), Lois’ sometime beau who is cast as Lucentio.
The Broadway production of Kiss Me Kate was a rare example of a Cole Porter "book musical" where all of the songs were written expressly for the production (a la Rodgers & Hammerstein). In turn, the film is a rare example of an MGM adaptation of a stage musical where almost all of the original songs survive the transition to screen. Another Opening, Another Show is cut, but its melody features as a prominent theme in the score. From This Moment On, written by Porter for a different show, is added to give a late film showcase for Ann Miller whose part is expanded compared to the stage version. Hollywood censors also cut some of the juicier bits from Too Darn Hot and Brush up on Your Shakespeare, but the immortal couplet "If she says your behavior is heinous/Kick her right in the Coriolanus" somehow made it through intact.
The cast segregates pretty clearly between singers, dancers, and comic relief, with Ann Miller being the only real triple threat. That being said, everyone delivers on their particular specialty in spades. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson arrive on screen with their "Showboat" chemistry (and voices) intact. Grayson in particular makes the most of her opportunities to chew scenery in number's like I Hate Men. Ann Miller is paired up effectively with versatile hoofer Tommy Rall as her primary suitor in the play within the film. The dancing deck is stacked still further by having tap dancer Bobby Van and future legend Bob Fosse play Bianca's other two suitors. Choreographer Hermes Pan stages all of the numbers beautifully, working around the non-dancers as necessary and even sneaking in a brief cameo for himself. Pan was gracious/smart enough to give Fosse (paired with Carol Haney, no less) just over a minute of time during the From This Moment On sequence to introduce audiences to his personal style that would take the dance world by storm in the ensuing decades.
Prolific MGM director George Sidney, who had experimented with early 3D cinematographic processes a decade before with a short film, proved to be the ideal choice to direct this big-budget 3D musical. His stagings and compositions make excellent use of the frame inclusive of the z-axis of depth. Eye-poke gags are plentiful, but they are deployed strategically so as not to interfere with narrative thrust and performances or the film's entertainment value even when viewed in 2D.
While most modern takes on The Taming of the Shrew play down the misogynistic elements by playing up Katherine's fierce intelligence and wit, that was not the prevailing strategy in Hollywood circa 1953. At that time, the approach was more along the lines of "Make sure we get the spanking in the poster art". Modern audiences may be somewhat taken aback by the film's pre-feminist vibe, but Kathryn Grayson does a good job of making Lilli/Katherine an appealing character right up until the demands of the film's final reel overwhelm her.
Kiss Me Kate was composed when shot to be presented at any of three aspect ratios (1.33:1, 1.75:1, and 1.85:1). These AVC (2D) and MVC (3D) encoded 1080p presentations fill the entire 16:9 frame and look well balanced, for the most part. Compositionally, It improves greatly over the original SD DVD release which was presented at 4:3 but exhibited significant cropping and horizontally unbalanced compositions. Occasionally the decision to present the film in the 16:9 aspect ratio interferes with some of the poke you in the eye gags, such as when objects thrown at the camera exit the frame a bit earlier than they otherwise would, but for the most part, everything looks effectively and deliberately composed in all three dimensions.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: 4.5/5
Shot in the often problematic Ansco Color single strip process, but with lab work by the always reliable Technicolor, this high definition video rendering of the film is generally spectacular save for a few nitpicks. One example: The costumes sported by the lead actors in the “We Open in Venice” number, which are a deep crimson red in prior video renderings of the film, are a bit tinted toward orange. The color timing seems tilted a bit this way throughout. On the other hand, this timing makes Kathryn Grayson’s hair and makeup look spectacular, so its hard to get too upset. Film grain level is fairly heavy, but not as severe as just about every other Ansco Color sourced film I have seen on home video.
The 3D presentation is very impressive, and will make as effective a demo of what can be done with the process on home video as any modern digital 3D production I have seen. From the impressive opening title sequence onward, Director Sidney makes full use of the possibilities of the format in ways ranging from subtly suggestive to aggressively gimmicky.
The film's original English soundtrack is rendered via a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Certain sound effects, such as that of a car driving away, occasionally show up in the surround speakers, but for most of the film's running time, only the music is mixed outside of the center channel. The music track is also the primary beneficiary of the lossless encoding, as it appear to have been recorded with better fidelity than the vocals/dialog.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Extras consist of a featurette, two vintage shorts, and a trailer that are all carried over from the previous SD DVD release of the film. They are all presented in standard definition:
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot (9:42) is a brief featurette on the production of Kiss Me Kate with many of the key cast members offering backstage anecdotes and commentary on the film. Hosted by Ann Miller ("Lois/Bianca") on-camera comments are provided by Kathryn Grayson ("Lilli/Katherine"), Howard Keel ("Fred/Petruchio"), Tommy Rall ("Bill/Lucentio"), and James Whitmore (“Slug”).
Mighty Manhattan, New York’s Wonder City (5:08) is a brief vintage featurette (it seems more like an excerpt from a featurette, truth be told) on the Big Apple circa 1949. It's only connection to Kiss Me Kate is some brief footage of Ann Miller out and about in the city. Fun fact - Mayor William O'Dwyer, featured prominently, would resign from office amid scandal less than a year after this was released.
Barney’s Hungry Cousin (1953) is a vintage MGM “Barney Bear” cartoon from Director Dick Lundy. It feels like a prototype for the eventual 1958 TV cartoon character of “Yogi Bear” since it involves Barney visiting “Jellystone Park” and being beset by another bear who is constantly after the contents of his picnic basket. A bit of trivia for MGM cartoon buffs: the voice of Barney’s food-stealing antagonist is provided by legendary Warner and MGM cartoon director Tex Avery.
Theatrical Trailer (3:33) This epic trailer is proof positive that MGM was promoting Kiss Me Kate as a prestige release in 1953, although the trailer makes no mention of the 3D process.
Fans of vintage 3D will have reason to celebrate with this outstanding Blu-ray 3D presentation of Kiss Me Kate, one of the most prestigious productions of the 1950s 3D boom. Vintage musical fans who are not 3D equipped will be treated to a high definition Kiss Me Kate that corrects framing errors from the prior DVD release. Everybody wins!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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