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Kiss Me Kate (Blu-ray Review)

Shout! Broadway rounds out its little spring run of musicals with another filmed stage performance, this time of the 1949 Tony Award winning show, Kiss Me Kate. Now, that’s not the actual 1949 production, but another 1999 one like Oklahoma. Cole Porter’s beloved classic Kiss Me, Kate receives “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” in this masterful 1999 London revival. With backstage shenanigans, gangsters trying to “Brush Up [Their] Shakespeare,” and a collection of Porter tunes that any “Tom, Dick, or Harry” will love, Kiss Me, Kate remains an all-time favorite of musical fans. You can check out its US Blu-ray debut by pre-ordering yourself  a copy (Along with Oklahoma! while you’re at it) for its release day, May 30th!

Film 

When the egotistical Fred Graham mounts a musical adaptation of The Taming of The Shrew, with himself as director, producer, and star, he’s got the perfect leading lady in mind: his movie star ex-wife! The fireworks both onstage and off between the two seem destined to sabotage the entire production… or will a romantic flame that’s “Too Darn Hot” be rekindled? With backstage shenanigans, gangsters trying to “Brush Up [Their] Shakespeare,” and a collection of Porter tunes that any “Tom, Dick, or Harry” will love, Kiss Me, Kate remains an all-time favorite of musical fans.

Kiss Me Kate is a pretty interesting production that originally took me a while to “get” it when watching.  But, once I got on the same page, it was pretty genius.  The whole story is a bit of a riff on Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew and turns into quite a hilarious little romp and tale giving an honest look at ego in theatre productions and the psyche of actors.  Its also sort of a nice little symphony of comedy hitting melodic parts.

Like Oklahoma!, which I also reviewed, this is a filmed version of a live theatre performance. Unlike Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate always feels like you’re watching such a production. Whoever the camera crew was on Oklahoma! was really deserves some accolades, because you get a completely different experience here.  Its not bad, mind you, just more like what you’d expect. It features some really great lighting and really colorful sets that look really crisp and ever present in this video transfer (We’ll talk about that below, though).

Rachel York absolutely crushes it here. She has an insane amount of stage presence and charisma that she could really carry this whole thing (She doesn’t have to, I’m just saying she could). Whether she’s singing, smiling, dancing or just sitting in place, if the lights are on her your eyes can’t leave her. While Brent Barrett and the supporting cast is a lot of fun, she’s the showstopper (At least for me).

I really dig Kiss Me Kate, because I’m really into those movies about making movies or the ones about some sort of behind the scenes production. Kiss Me Kate isn’t the greatest of them all, but it sure is plenty of fun and very funny at times. It features some decent songs but nothing that I could recall strongly if you asked me in about 2 weeks. There is a film version of the film, which is over an hour shorter, so if you’ve never dabbled and don’t have a professional stage performance of it nearby, check out that. Its not too shabby!

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Kiss Me Kate has a very strong transfer with bold figures and colors that really pop right on the screen. Its crisp but has a bit of a polished, gloss look to it due to the theatrical lighting. This one looks much less cinematic than Oklahoma! did. Details are quite strong on clothing, surfaces and the backdrop even shows some fun carpentry details. The clarity is quite impressive and the colors and strength of image is pretty intoxicating at times. I loved looking at Rachel York’s hair in this, if that matters at all.

Depth:  Depth is rather solid. Decent separation of the performers and the backgrounds. Some camera movements make the distancing look a little more impressive.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich, but also maintain detail in texture and patterns. Grain becomes more prevalent in darker areas of the stage. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very strong. Red lipstick really pops off the screen. Pinks, salmons and light colors all look quite lovely. Greens have a nice strong palette. Purple and other vivid colors look quite strong on flowers and clothing.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent (And well lit throughout) with a very minimal reflection due to lighting of background colors and such. Facial details like make-up are very apparent, but you can also see lip texture, sweat gloss, stubble, freckles, face lines/dimples/wrinkles and light blemishes apparent in medium and close ups.

Noise/Artifacts: A light layer of grain.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Kiss Me Kate features some really strong, booming audio from its performers with some really lively, concert-like bits. It features some really good low frequency moments in vocals, instruments and sounds on stage. There is a good balance between effects, vocals and music. There is a bit of a his, to go along with some moments that sound very lapel mic’d. Overall, a strong audio track for this production.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals pick up on some really low tones with their clarity as well as some mic sounds to go along with stage echoes. Overall, this works out just fine, just needed to note that.

Extras 

Musical Numbers – Skip right to your favorite song. This feature also follows along with the film, so if you were wondering what the title of the song is, you can pull up the pop up menu and it will be marked.

Summary 

If you’re into those Fathom Events with the opera things, maybe this is your sorta thing. I enjoyed it, but I’m probably never going back to it. Rachel York is great in it though. This Blu-ray features a strong video and audio transfer. Unfortunately, extras are scarce. This is probably only for Kiss Me Kate enthusiasts and big time Blu-ray Broadway collectors (Hi, who are you?).

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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