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KISMET  [Blu-ray]
on June 30, 2014
KISMET  [Blu-ray] Famed Stage Hit Glorified On The Screen! ECSTASY of Song Spectacular and Love!
With Alexander Borodins soaring music fashioned by Robert Wright and George Forrest into Stranger in Paradise, Baubles, Bangles and Beads and even more evergreens, `KISMET' turned the Broadway stage into a glittering, gleaming Arabian Nights' dream. It is ideal material, in fact for the Hollywood dream factory. To Hollywood and director Vincente Minnelli, `KISMET' is all about making desires come true.
The lavish musical follows one fateful, fabulous day as a beggar-poet [Howard Keel] and his daughter [Ann Blyth] cross paths with a wicked wazir [Sebastian Cabot], a wily temptress [Dolores Gray], a handsome prince [Vic Damone], a magical curse, opulent sets and exotic adventure. "Princes come, princes go," sings the beggar. Glorious `Kismet' endures!
Cast: Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone, Monty Woolley, Sebastian Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Mike Mazurki, Jack Elam, Ted de Corsia, Reiko Sato, Patricia Dunn, Wonci Lui, Julie Robinson, Ray Aghayan (uncredited), Ed Agresti (uncredited), Richard Alameda (uncredited), Suzanne Ames (uncredited), Jan Arvan (uncredited), William Bagdad (uncredited), Rama Bai (uncredited), Buddy Bryant (uncredited), Barrie Chase (uncredited), Jamie Farr (uncredited), Norman Leavitt (uncredited), Pat Sheehan (uncredited), Reginald Lal Singh (uncredited) and Aaron Spelling (uncredited)
Director: Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen (fill-in director) (uncredited)
Producers: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Charles Lederer and Luther Davis
Composers: André Previn (uncredited) and Conrad Salinger (uncredited)
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Video Resolution: 1080p [Eastman Color]
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 [CinemaScope 55]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 113 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: The big Hollywood musical was on the decline when M-G-M produced ‘KISMET,’ the lavish 1955 musical fantasy. 'KISMET' was a big flop when it was shown in the cinemas, earning $1.8 million against a $3 million production cost, one of a handful of costly financial failures for the studio that year 'It's Always Fair Weather,' 'Jupiter's Darling' and 'Hit the Deck' all lost money, though 'Kismet' appears to have been the biggest financial loser. Previously filmed twice by Warner Bros., first as a 1920 silent film then as a 1930 early talkie, and then by M-G-M with better success in 1944, its Arabian Nights-type romance this time is an adaptation of the popular 1953 Broadway stage musical. For the screen they kept the original score and trusted much of it to their own resident baritone, Howard Keel. But though his acting was more than enough to sell the material, something in the screen translation didn't click, turning whimsy into elephantine spectacle. Only Howard Keel's scenes, particularly with leading lady Dolores Gray, suggest what a distinctive musical ‘KISMET’ could have been.
`KISMET'  is an American musical film in CinemaScope 55 and Eastman Color released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is the fourth film version of `Kismet' and the first was released in 1920 and the second in 1930 by Warner Brothers and the second released by M-G-M. Again, this 1955 film is based on the successful 1953 Broadway stage musical `Kismet' and this version of not at all bad, but it pales when compared to M-G-M's run of great 1950s musicals: `Royal Wedding,' `An American in Paris,' `Singin' in the Rain,' `The Band Wagon,' `Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' etc. Virtually nothing about the film stands out. The cast is serviceable but everyone seems slightly miscast; the songs offer clever lyrics but generally aren't memorable; there are no outstanding dance numbers; the sets are colourful but the action within them is blandly photographed. It may be the only M-G-M musical where the costumes far outshine the musical numbers.
In an only-in-Hollywood-imagined Baghdad, a Beggar Poet [Howard Keel] is kidnapped, whisked out into the desert and taken before brigand Jawan [Jay C. Flippen] where Jawan mistaking the Poet for rival beggar named Haji, demands that a curse placed upon him 15 years before be lifted, a curse that separated the thief from a beloved son. The Poet, unable to convince Jawan that he's not Haji, finally agrees to reverse the curse, for which Jawan pays the Poet 100 pieces of gold.
Meanwhile, the Caliph [Vic Damone] is seen wandering the city incognito with adviser Omar [Monty Woolley], where he meets the Poet's daughter, Marsinah [Ann Blyth]. With her mistaking him for a gardener, the two falls instantly in love but are soon separated. Elsewhere, the evil Wazir of Police [Sebastian Cabot] and favoured wife Lalume [Dolores Grey] plot to instead have the Caliph marry one (or perhaps all three) princesses of the King of Abadu.
The Poet returns to Baghdad a rich man but is just as quickly arrested as a thief as the gold turns out to have been stolen. However, the Poet convinces the none-too-bright Wazir that he, the Poet, is a magician to avoid getting one of his hands chopped off. Further, Lalume is impressed by the Poet's ability to fool her foolish husband. But can the Poet escape the Wazir's determination to execute him, and thwart his efforts to stand between the Caliph and Marsinah's True Love?
Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincente Minnelli, 'KISMET' plays much like a filmed stage performance, partly because of its faithfulness to the original Broadway source more than most M-G-M musicals like `On the Town' for instance, and despite several obvious concessions to the strict Production Code, and probably also because of the limitation of early CinemaScope. For instance, Joseph Ruttenberg's cinematography is completely dominated by wide and medium shots with few close-ups, but also there's a dearth of purely cinematic moments. The movie version clearly could have used some Thief of Bagdad-type doses of all-out fantasy. The entire film was shot on the M-G-M lot. Even the desert scenes were obviously filmed there, with painted sky backdrops for all the exterior scenes, aided by a few matte shots. Much of this is effectively done, but other than obvious lavishness there is little to distinguish 'KISMET' from other films of this type.
In later years, ‘KISMET’ has attracted attention among auteurists, who have studied it for signs of Vincente Minnelli's directorial personality, even while ranking it among his lesser works. The film also provides a footnote to entertainment history thanks to the presence in the cast of future television producer Aaron Spelling in an unbilled bit as a beggar. After making ‘KISMET,’ the aspiring actor decided that he had no future in that field and moved behind the camera. In later years, Vincente Minnelli would joke that he was responsible for Aaron Spelling's spectacular career. The songs by Robert Wright and George Forrest, adapted from music by Alexander Borodin, most famously "Stranger in Paradise," are clever in terms of their lyrics, but few stand out; scenes from 'KISMET' aren't prominently featured in any of M-G-M's later ‘That's Entertainment!’ film compilations.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Warner Archive Collection's Blu-ray of `KISMET' looks about as good as it's ever going to get. The colour is bright and the image is as sharp as the limitations of early "scope" lenses will allow. 'KISMET' looks even better than when I saw it at the cinema, especially in terms of vibrant colours that are so vivid and the image is totally awesome and very sharp. This Blu-ray presentation is probably the best `KISMET' has ever looked, and perhaps ever will. It gives a rich encoded 1080p image that made you feel like you wanted to be part of the film and especially of the film set of 'KISMET.'
Blu-ray Audio Quality – It's not clear if this was originally released in the original four-track magnetic stereo or merely with Perspecta Stereophonic Sound, but the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is robust and was a very enjoyable experience and brought out the best sound ever, while the 5.1 sound remix is robust.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Oscar® Nominated Short: The Battle of Gettysburg: ‘The Battle of Gettysburg’ is a 1955 American documentary film about the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards® and the documentary was filmed in Eastmancolor entirely on location at the Gettysburg National Military Park in south-central Pennsylvania. Leslie Nielsen provides narration, while songs from the Civil War era are played in the background with the sound effects of battle. At the end of the film, Nielsen reads the Gettysburg Address. No actors appear onscreen. Dore Schary photographed memorial statues and bas-reliefs already present on battlefield from various angles and distances, and then juxtaposed the footage to suggest that the static images were actual characters taking part in a dramatic re-enactment of the battle. In some scenes, the turbulence created by an off-screen helicopter is used to press down tall grasses, suggesting the passage of invisible soldiers. Not sure why it's here, unless it played some of its engagements with the film `KISMET.'
Special Feature Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Classic Cartoon: The First Bad Man  [4:3] One million years ago, back when Texas was young- real young!- cave cowboys rode through the land and lived a relatively peaceful everyday existence... doing business at the cave bank, drinking in the cave saloon, and dragging cavewomen by their hair to their cave home. In Dallas (the history of Texas goes back a long way, you know!), Dinosaur Dan (the first bad man) rides in, disrupting their cave town, robbing the cave bank, taking their cavewomen and stampeding their dinosaur cattle. The good citizens saddle up their dinosaurs to bring the varmint to cave justice. The cartoon begins and ends with the fact that the jail that they put Dinosaur Dan in stands in downtown Dallas to this very day! Much funnier and even funnier than KISMET's supporting casting, and is a cartoon about the prehistorically deep history of Texas that represents Tex Avery at his best. Again, why is it here, especially again it was only presented in standard definition.
Special Feature: Excerpt from The ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Parade’ TV Series: Host George Murphy introduces segments from two M-G-M productions, and it features ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’  and the short film ‘The Greatest Gift’ . He then presents a few common pet peeves, dramatised by an unfortunate man, who must wait to use the only pay telephone booth around which is occupied by a very talkative woman; as a shopkeeper, who is waiting on a customer who doesn't seem to want to spend any money but causes calamity in the store; who slips on a loose rug at the top of a flight of stairs; who battles a stuck ice cube tray in a freezer; and who needs to find the burnt out bulb on a string of Christmas tree lights. George Murphy then meets with actor/singer Howard Keel, who is to appear in the upcoming M-G-M musical ‘KISMET’ . This is only presented in the standard definition.
Special Feature: Outtake Song "Rhymes Have I" [Audio-Only] The audio only bonus of a deleted song called "Rhymes Have I" is presented very well; especially as it has a nice colourful poster image on the screen, and in a very sharp poster like background.
Theatrical Trailers: The 1955 ‘KISMET’ trailer stresses sex and hanky-panky at all times, even though the Code keeps everything in the film on such a hands-off basis. The 1944 ‘Kismet’ [4:3] trailer has been included as well. As we can see, it could use some of that inspirational Borodin music, but Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich make a far more exotic couple.
Finally, it's a great thing that the Warner Archive Collection is now releasing Blu-rays with selected titles. The price should certainly get the attention of collectors, who are now finding that many desirable vintage titles are sold only in limited editions. And whenever I see a choice musical arrive on a Blu-ray disc, I detect the guidance of a certain well known respected Warner Bros. home video executive, is behind the decision. Seeing Dolores Gray's dazzling "sparkling" smile here in HD, I'm hoping that the Warner Archive will release a Blu-ray of the wonderful `It's Always Fair Weather.' But despite a lot of critics giving `Kismet' meagre reviews, I personally loved this film and so proud to add it to my Blu-ray Collection, as it is a glorious Technicolor Arabian journey and I know you will get a lot of enjoyment out of this Classic Hollywood Musical and has loads of marvellous memorable classic songs, that I forgot how good they were. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C, Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom