Kiss Me Kate 3D Blu-ray Review

Kiss Me anytime in 3D

A spiteful but fanciful romance centers Kiss Me Kate, adapted from the play to the screen with MGM’s musical vigor of the era. The egotistical bitterness between Fred (Howard Keel) and Lilli (Kathryn Grayson) is made playful – plus believable enough as if the two harbor legitimate ill will toward each other.

Kiss Me Kate is a luxuriously old fashioned “man gets girl” musical wrapped up in a production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Bursting with color and loaded with dazzling dance routines, Kiss Me Kate is an essential MGM feature, if a down a step in scope from their more prominent catalog.

Songs are notable. Kathryn Grayson scores with a fired up “I Hate Men,” Keel taking a catchy jingle, “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua,” and Ann Miller masterfully soloing, “Too Darn Hot.” In-between are the duets and complex routines expected of MGM’s period output, rich in flirtatious choreography.

Kiss Me Kate never quiets down. It’s owned by its performers.

Keel and Grayson are fantastic as leads. Divorced and forced together for the sake of their art, the character duo banter and huff. Each co-starring moment on stage is an appropriate escalation of their marital war, slickly overlaid onto Shrew. Backstage breaks are equally ferocious.

Great as they are, Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore add a needed comedic spark as bumbling gangsters attempting to desperately collect a debt in the midst of the exes feud before being hauled on stage as part of the show. Though secondary, their mischief is enough to calm down a somewhat bawdy, male dominated narrative. Grayson certainly bites back though. Some of her added fire is undoubtedly a contribution from screenwriter Dorothy Kingsley.

Each scene has a restless energy, almost exhausting to watch. If not caught in song, the precise dialog is manic. Kiss Me Kate never quiets down. It’s owned by its performers. For a film holding to a style many would consider antiquated, Kiss Me Kate has the intense enthusiasm needed to hold dwindling modern attention spans.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Closing number @ 1:42:35

Kiss Me Kate, according to director George Sidney, was meant for 1.75:1 despite many original theatrical presentations using Academy ratio. Technicolor’s prints (from Ansocolor sources) needed space on the stock for sound. The Blu-ray properly masters the film for Sidney’s preference. It’s a beaut.

Color is intense. It’s unmistakably vintage, absolutely glowing with primaries. Stage costumes are a glorious mixture of ridiculously bright reds, purples, yellows, and blues. Grayson’s lipstick is strongly accentuated. There is no dilution of hues due to age, nor any apparent digital amplification. Colors are as they should be.

Compression work manages a fine grain structure, a touch (and just a touch) heavier than other stocks of the era. While it will struggle with reds given their saturation, this should be foreseen. The print is flawless. Judder is absent and any visible damage has been removed – assuming there was any on what is surely a well preserved film.

Restoration work is high in resolution. Fidelity of the stage and costumes, down to stitching on Keel’s jacket in the first act, is marvelous. Warner’s press releases make no mention of the scan itself, although it is easily 2K. Knowing the studio’s reverence for their catalog, it was likely higher.

All of that is fine, but Kiss Me Kate’s Blu-ray highlight is the 3D work. It’s brilliant. Depth is outstanding from the mammoth opening title. Separation between foreground and back is intense. Modern 3D so rarely tries to be this extensive. Kiss Me Kate has no such fears.

The gimmicks are here. Objects are thrown toward the audience with an illogical frequency. But, it never needs those superfluous stunts. The sense of being there on a stage is complete. Actors are naturally in place and the smartly designed sets – in an apartment, backstage or on – use hefty, spacious perspective to lend more weight to the effect. Better still, Kiss Me Kate never tries too hard and with the sole exception of two apparent special effect shots (one on a roof’s ledge looking down; the final shot of the stage) there are no gaffes. 3D actions are satisfying and complete, amongst the best of the catalog with minimal chance for cross talk. Only Warner’s House of Wax can compete.

2D-Video ★★★★★ 

3D-Video ★★★★★ 

Originally sent to theaters in stereo and mono, neither of those tracks are offered here. Instead, a full DTS-HD 5.1 remaster is used. Much is made of the stereos, including vocals which slip off screen and into either side channel. It’s seamless when separating from the center. Surrounds fills in ambient orchestration.

Most impressive is fidelity. Opening notes spill through the speakers with spectacular clarity. Any signs of hiss or fading are gone. Cliche as it may be, it sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Rarely has that statement been so true. The only faults are in the highest of notes. A few of the highs in “Wunderbar” are the slightest bit unstable. Those audible quirks comprise mere seconds.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot is an older bonus, speaking with (then) surviving cast members while reminiscing about the feature and Cole Porter’s original play. Mighty Manhattan: New York’s Wonder City is a ’50s era MGM short about the growing city featuring a few named actors. Barney’s Hungry Cousin is a brief cartoon to complete the matinee feel.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

  • David Matychuk

    “Mighty Manhattan” on this Blu-Ray is only a 5-minute excerpt from the complete 20-minute featurette, which is on the “Kiss Me Kate” DVD.

  • Ah, thanks. That puts it in a little more perspective.