Kiss Me Kate

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Fred (Howard Keel) and Lilli (Kathryn Grayson) were once in love, but now they’re divorced and there’s constant tension between them. But they find themselves drawn back together when Cole Porter debuts a new musical. This one is based on Shakespeare’s classic The Taming of the Shrew and of course, Fred and Lilli are cast in the lead roles. This means that life often imitates art, or perhaps the other way around, as life on the set begins to feel a lot like the play itself, thanks to the former couple’s antics. So rehearsals are often marred with fights, as the two squabble and bicker about whatever comes to mind. But at the same time, they start to realize that some love still remains between them, even if it is buried under all that tension. Even so, some new faces appear and some new relationships are flirted, such as the one with young Lois Lane (Ann Miller). This adds even more tension between the ex-couple, but also makes them a little jealous, which brings back more of the old feelings. Meanwhile, Fred is being hounded by some mobsters, who are misinformed and believe the actor is in debt to their boss. As the play prepares to open and the fighting continues, will Fred and Lilli ever be able to overcome the past?

As we all know, when movies are shot in 3-D, they have numerous scenes that were designed to take advantage of that process. We might see a knife coming right toward us or dancers moving right off the screen, the kind of stuff that looks cool in 3-D, but comes off as downright silly if you don’t have the glasses on. In Kiss Me Kate, we have those kind of instances and as expected, the lack of a 3-D presentation lessens the experience. So all the special gags seem stupid in this flat presentation, instead of humorous and entertaining. In addition, the 3-D process hindered this movie in terms of overall visuals. This is because the camera is much more limited here than in a traditional production. As such, the camera provides minimal creative pans and sweeps, or even basic flow in the case of some scenes. A musical needs a kinetic texture and with such a limited camera, that becomes a rather tall order in Kiss Me Kate. The performances are fun and help even the scales however, as Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, and Howard Keel all kick in enjoyable efforts. I also liked the choreography, even if the camera couldn’t keep at times, which made the musical numbers quite impressive. I found Kiss Me Kate to be a decent, but unremarkable picture, so if you’re interested, I recommend a rental.

As this is a love story at heart, Kiss Me Kate needed two leads who could demonstrate effective chemistry throughout. The best bet in such a case is to find two performers who have experience working together and that is what happened here, as Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson landed the roles. Both had immense skills in front of the camera, but it was a lock to have chemistry, as the pair had worked together before with success. In fact, as the So In Love number plays, you can see shots from previous films the two starred in. But the chemistry is a tad off at times, which hinders the film in some places. I tend to lean toward Grayson’s effort as the finest from Kiss Me Kate, though Keel is also more than solid. But I do love the ladies, so a female performance tends to catch my eye with more ease. And Grayson is certain to catch eyes, since she is a beautiful woman with sizable on screen talent. Other films with Grayson include Anchors Aweigh, Show Boat, It Happened in Brooklyn, Seven Sweethearts, and The Desert Song. The cast also includes Howard Keel (Calamity Jane, Annie Get Your Gun), Ann Miller (On the Town, Mulholland Drive), and Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove, The Great Race).

Video: How does it look?

Kiss Me Kate is presented in full frame, as intended. As I mentioned before, this movie was shown in 3-D in theaters, but this disc only includes a flat presentation. Perhaps the move to 2-D or the 3-D process itself has taken a toll on the materials, as the colors are inconsistent and the image just has a soft texture throughout. The print looks good, with no serious instances of debris or grain, but like I said, there is a softness present at all times. This lessens detail and that’s a shame, as Kiss Me Kate has some dynamic visuals, of course. The colors seem a little off kilter in most scenes, while contrast is smooth in most instances, but slips at times. I’ve been hard on this transfer, but in truth, it looks solid given the age of the material involved. Even so, I do hope some restoration work is done, as well as a return to the original 3-D edition.

Audio: How does it sound?

This release is home to a new Dolby Digital 5.1 option, but I was unable to detect much in terms of surround presence. A few squeaks came from the rear channels, but for the most part, there is no surround use in this mix. That’s a shame, as this is a musical after all and that means at least music needs a boost at times. The music is spread well over the front channels, but aside from that, the elements are bland and basic. I found dialogue to be clear and crisp however, so not all is lost here. The overall mix sounds decent, but for a brand new soundtrack, its kind of a let down. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The coolest extra here is an isolated musical score, which even sounds superior to the main soundtrack, for some reason. A ten minute collection of interviews is found here, plus a nineteen minute piece on the wonders of Manhattan. This disc also includes a selection of production notes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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