Kiss Me Kate, 3D and 2D Blu-ray (1952/2015)

Kiss Me Kate, 3D and 2D Blu-ray (1952/2015)

Director: George Sidney
Cast: Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Bobby Van, Bob Fosse
Studio: MGM/ Warner Brothers (3/3/15)
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA & 5.1 Dolby Digital; Dolby Digital 1.0 in Spanish & French
Length: 110 minutes
Extras: Featurette: “Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot” (SD, 10 minutes); Vintage short: “Mighty Manhattan, New York’s Wonder City” (SD, 5 minutes); Vintage animated short: “Barney’s Hungry Cousin” (SD, 7 minutes); Theatrical trailer
Rating: ****

Not being a rabid fan of musicals I watched Kiss me Kate mainly because it was a 3D release which was of some historical interest. The surprise was, the movie is terrific, the 3D is as good as I’ve seen (better than most contemporary 3D movies), and the audio from the 62 year old film was sparking and dimensional.

The original Cole Porter Kiss Me Kate ran for more than 1000 performances on Broadway, and became a hit on film for MGM. The studio made some great musicals back in the day, and their crack special effects team made tremendous contributions to films like The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain and Easter Parade. Kiss Me Kate was planned to capitalize on the fifties 3D craze, but it appeared 3D was waning in popularity. It hasn’t been seen in 3D since the film’s 1952 release. [It is not true that most of the 3D films back then used the anaglyph red and green glasses – most were originally shot and projected with polarized glasses, as used today, which is why 3D restorer 3-D Film Archive was able to do such a good job on this reissue…Ed.]

The movie stars Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson as on-again-off-again lovers who wind up together in a musical based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

Other notable performances were from Ron Randell playing Cole Porter. Randell was a versatile, but seldom seen actor. He played a major role in Sam Bronston’s King of Kings. There are also appearances by James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn as gangsters. They are the last two actors I expected to see in a musical, and somehow they got through a singing and dancing number with good humor.

The disc, produced by Warner Home Video, is astounding. It contains a 3D and a 2D version, but if you don’t have 3D equipment 3D won’t be an option that appears on the main menu. The 3D is absolutely compelling. Dance numbers are aided greatly by the sense of depth and space. Close-ups don’t distort, and faces look natural. Long shots of the stage with the audience in the foreground look completely natural. During filming, it’s clear 3D wasn’t an afterthought. Objects are placed just forward the normal frame in some scenes, and depth is realistic. It’s a revelation compared to the current crop of movies with rather timid 3D effects, either in the theaters or on home sets.

At times things are thrown at the viewer, but it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Confetti, a scarf that leaves the confines of the normal screen, and Kathryn Grayson pitching tableware that heads right for the audience are well done. But mostly, everything looks natural. I felt at times I was on the stage with the actors and dancers. It’s a stunning, unforgettable, 3D experience.

Audio is also first rate. The disc provides a superb 5.1 mix derived from the original magnetic master tapes. There isn’t a lot of surround, it’s mainly ambiance, but the front separations are excellent, with dialog appearing from the correct speaker and moving as cast members take up different positions on the set. Dynamic range is very good, although the highest registers of the strings are a bit muted due to the age of the recording. Not to worry. This movie sounds great. Musical numbers like ‘So in Love,’ ‘Tom, Dick, or Harry,’ and ‘Wunderbar’ are life-like.

Extras are ported over from the original 2D release of the film, a highlight being a 10-minute feature hosted by the late cast member Ann Miller talking about the film and her experience in making it.

I’m trying to not add too many superlatives, but Kiss Me Kate is an absolute must-purchase if you have a 3D setup. Even with just the 2D Blu-ray release, it’s a lovely video presentation with great audio, but in 3D Kiss Me Kate is really demonstration material.

—Mel Martin

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