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Kiss Me Kate
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Fred and Lilly are a divorced pair of actors who are brought together by Cole Porter who has written a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. Of course, the couple seem to act a great deal like the characters they play. A fight on the opening night threatens the production, as well as two thugs who have the mistaken idea that Fred owes their boss money and insist on staying next to him all night.
- All-new digital transfer
- Ann Miller hosts Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot
- Music-only track
- Vintage documentary short "Mighty Manhattan, New York's Wonder City"
- Behind-the-scenes notes
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Suddenly, I'm in the apartment with faux Cole Porter and Howard Keel watching Ann Miller sizzle out her dance on and off tables as only she can. My youth is suddenly restored! Or I'm wincing while Kathryn Grayson sings to me how she hates men, or I'm standing around while the boys soft-shoe and advise me to reread my Shakespeare. I wander among the actors absorbing the color, costumes, sets, find my way backstage for the hijinks there and back again to watch three other boys and girls including Ann miller (and including a first screen appearance by Bob Fosse in his own self- choreographed section) fly through "From This Moment On". Porter's songs are American classics, and the intertwining plots of this light-hearted off-the-wall take on "Taming of the Shrew" did what the best musical comedy films do (well, some of them): it took me in, cheered me up, made me dance and sing and then gave me leave to go humming a tune.
This is one of the best 3DBD's I've ever bought. If you like musicals and have a 3-D player and TV, don't hesitate. The package also includes the 2-D version. You'll win either way.
I'm not going to get into the plot of Kiss Me Kate, because others will do that and because that's not the main reason to see this wonderful film. The real reason to see this film is the beautiful Cole Porter music, the incredible dancing by people like Bob Fosse, the rainbow spectacle of color, and seeing the miracle of depth in a beautifully crafted 3-D film. Those are the qualities that make this film a total delight. This treasure was photographed in perfect 3-D by the best cinematographers at MGM, using their own in-house Metrovision Tri-Dee 3-D camera rig. Most of the so-called 3-D films made today are really flat 2-D images that have been converted into fake 3-D in post production, because it saves a lot of money. The actors in this film were photographed with a stereoscopic camera that used a separate strip of film for each eye, so they look solid. There is roundness in their faces and depth in their bodies, it's like looking into a mirror at real people. If you've only seen this film in 2D, then you haven't really seen Kiss Me Kate until you see it in Blu-ray 3D. By the way, contrary to what most younger people believe, we never used red/blue 3-D glasses in the Fifties. We used polarized glasses like they do today, because you can only see full color with polarized 3-D glasses or LCD shutter glasses. Most people today are also surprised to learn that we had multi-channel stereo surround sound in movies back in the fifties. I know these things, because I went to a lot of movies in the Fifties and I saw almost all of the 3-D films. There really hasn't been much progress after all these years, except for digital projection, which improves distribution and projection, but doesn't make the picture significantly better than 35 mm film. As for IMAX, we had Cinerama and a number of 65mm and 70mm formats in the fifties (such as Todd-AO), that came close to the IMAX experience of today. Some of the old processes were arguably better, considering that many IMAX features are really just 35mm (or the digital equivalent) blown up to fit the IMAX screen.
I love the horror movies like House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon that have been released on Blu-ray 3D, and I have purchased them all. But, 3-D movies were made in every genre from westerns, to costume dramas, to musicals, and it's great to finally see a big 3-D musical finally restored and released in the 3D Blu-ray format. And what a musical they picked, this is arguably the best musical MGM made in the Fifties and it had some of the best songs the great Cole Porter wrote. I'm an old geezer who saw Kiss Me Kate in dual-projection, polarized 3-D and stereophonic sound when it opened in 1953. So, I can tell you from first hand experience that this transfer is a flawless copy of what I saw and heard in the theater more than 60 years ago. There is not a single instance of faded color, not a single visible scratch and not a single frame of misaligned 3-D on this Blu-ray disk. The brilliant Ansco color will knock both your shoes and your socks off. Just look at the vibrant color of that skimpy hot pink outfit Ann Miller wears in the Too Darn Hot number. Apparently, Technicolor prints of the entire film have survived, because the color in the original Ansco camera negatives would have faded long ago.
The people at Warner Video are perfectionists who know exactly what they are doing. Although Kiss Me Kate was not filmed with anamorphic lenses (i.e. CinemaScope), it was intentionally photographed to be cropped in the projector and shown in widescreen. As it happens, the film was composed to be shown in 1.75:1 which is almost the same aspect ratio as a modern 16:9 HDTV screen. So, this transfer has been properly cropped to fill the entire screen of our HDTV sets. It would have been a shame if less knowledgeable people had done the transfer and letterboxed the picture to a narrow 1.33:1 image. It's also apparent that Warner's has given us a disk with true stereo surround sound from the original stereo soundtracks. In most cases, the original stereo soundtracks have been lost and the stereo had to be faked on the disk, which was unfortunately the case with House of Wax, which had a lost magnetic stereo soundtrack. The stereo surround on this disk is so good that with a 5.1 home theater system you'll think you're sitting in the middle of the orchestra. The sound in a musical like Kiss me Kate is as important as the picture and the sound on this disk is crisp, clean, and in real stereo High Fidelity. It's probably the best sound I've heard on any Blu-ray disk.
Incidentally, my favorite song from the film, Cole Porter's From This Moment On, was not in the original Broadway show, but fortunately it was included in the film's big dance number. The dancing in this segment is some of the best ever put on film. We expect the best dancing in a classic MGM musical, the home of Kelly and Astaire. But, the dancing of Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse seems to defy gravity, from the moment when Rall comes flying onto the stage from what appears to be a height of two stories and lands in the kneeling position, to Fosse's "hip" dance style that revolutionized choreography. I had to pause the picture and single-step through some parts of this number one frame at a time to believe what I was seeing, because the dancer's feet seem to spend more time suspended in mid-air than on the floor. These guys were not only great dancers, they were great athletes, and they looked as sleek as sharks in their period costumes.
Although this film was not made to show off 3-D gimmicks, director George Sidney does manage to slip in quite a few of them. I like the fact that most of the out-of-screen effects are slipped in when we don't expect them and not set up in the predictable "here comes another pie in your face" style that was so common in early 3-D films. One of the best 3-D illusions to me was not something being thrown at the audience, it was Howard Keel calmly waving a banana at the audience to make his points during a monolog. The banana projected just far enough out of my TV screen to make a totally believable illusion that there was a real man inside the TV set poking a banana out through the screen.
The disk has several special features on it. One is the original somewhat faded theater trailer (aka preview). Another special feature is a cartoon from the era. It's too bad they didn't include a 3-D cartoon on the disk (quite a few cartoons were made in 3-D in the Fifties), but with a beautiful restoration like this I can't nit-pick about the cartoon. There is also a 2-D short subject about New York City that appears to be from the late Forties and not the Fifties. I can estimate the year to be around 1948 from the look of the cars in the street scenes. I'm not sure why a short subject from the Forties is included, other than a brief shot of Ann Miller. Maybe they just didn't have a short from the Fifties. The best special feature is a 2003 TCM interview with Ann Miller, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, James Whitmore and Tommy Rall. The anecdotes are priceless, especially the one told by James Whitmore about Hermes Pan trying to teach Whitmore and Wynn to dance. Unfortunately, as I write this in 2015, the only surviving original cast member of the film is Tommy Rall. And yet, thanks to the magic of full-color stereoscopic cinematography, we can see and hear them today looking just as real, just as young and just as beautiful as they did back in 1953. Without stereoscopic photography this illusion would not be so perfect. At one point in the movie, I paused the picture, walked up to my 60 inch screen and ran my fingers through individual strands of Kathryn Grayson's flaming red hair.... that's how good the detail in this Blu-ray transfer is.
I'm very grateful to Warner Video for bringing this great classic film to us in fully restored 3-D. Amazon is selling the disk for only $14.95 which is an unbelievable bargain. I would have gladly paid $100 for it. At this low price no collector should be without a copy of this film. If you love classic 3-D movies, or if you love musicals, then this is a "must have" disk for your collection. Even if you don't currently own a 3-D TV, you should get this disk, because the disk also contains a 2-D version of the film and I believe this is the only Blu-ray version of this movie that's available.
NOTE: When I wrote my review I had not read any of the other reviews of the new Blu-ray 3-D version of Kiss Me Kate. Now, I've read the other reviews and I see that many people have commented on a problem with 3-D ghosting. I don't know why some people get ghosting, but I'd like to go on record as saying that on my Samsung plasma 3DTV there is no ghosting at all--- none! So, I don't see how the problem can be on the disk. I don't know why some people get ghosting with some of these Blu-ray 3D disks and others like myself don't, but my hunch is that it might have something to do with the brightness and contrast settings of the 3DTV set. LCD shutter glasses attenuate light, so viewing through LCD 3D shutter glasses requires a brighter picture with stronger contrast than 2D viewing. 3-D ghosting may be physiological when screen brightness is low, due to the effect of increased persistence of vision on sequential 3-D images as they are presented through shutter glasses. For years we have been told by the experts to reduce the brightness and contrast of our sets, because they have been pre-configured for bright sales showrooms. Books and magazines are written on this subject, and special disks are available for adjusting HDTV sets. But, I think we may need to reconsider or modify this thinking when it comes to watching 3-D. If you have ghosting, then I urge you to bump up the brightness and contrast settings of your set and see if the ghosting goes away. Also, remember that what some people call ghosting may be normal 3-D. The brain can't fuse images that are too far apart on the Z axis. If your eyes converge on your hand, then a tree 20 feet away will look like two trees, and if your eyes converge on the tree then you will see two hands. In 3-D cinematography, the cameraman controls what to converge the camera lenses on, so if the camera is converged on a nearby object, then you can't re-converge your eyes on an object 15 feet way like you can in real life. If you concentrate on the background, then you're going to see a double image, if the cameraman was photographing a close-up. But, this is not a defect in the disk or the TV; it's just the way 3-D movies work and this won't change until holographic 3-D movies are perfected.
The second issue that many people had with this disk was the aspect ratio. 1953 was a pivotal year for theaters. In the wake of Cinerama and with the premier of CinemaScope in 1953, theaters were rushing to install new wider screens and new projector lenses required to fill the wider screens. Some theaters had wide screens in 1953 and other theaters didn't. This presented a problem for the studios, so many studios shot films spherically in the old 1.33:1 Academy ratio, but marked up the camera viewfinder for a wide screen format, so the film could be shown full frame in theaters with old screens and in widescreen in theaters equipped with the new wider screens. Because the camera viewfinders were marked up for widescreen, the projector's aperture could be matted for widescreen and the picture could be enlarged without chopping off the top of actors heads. Head chopping did happen, but only with older films, which were not photographed with widescreen projection in mind. For the record, I saw Kiss Me Kate in 3-D back in 1953 at the Lowes State Theater in Houston Texas and it was shown in widescreen, exactly the way it appears on the new disk. So, for all you purists our there, Warners Video could have cropped the picture either way and they would have been true to the way the film was presented in theaters in 1953. Personally, I'm glad they picked the widescreen format, which was the preferred way to show the film in 1953.
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