Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Kismet (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

I'm a longtime fan of MGM musicals, but for many years KISMET (1955) fell low on my list of favorites.

That impression changed when I saw KISMET again last year at the TCM Classic Film Festival; I was swept away by the beauty of the music, at times moved to tears of joy. I was thus very glad indeed to be able to experience KISMET again via the beautiful new Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, especially as the Blu-ray has outstanding sound.

Simply put, KISMET is the story of a beggar, Hajj (Howard Keel), whose lovely daughter Marsinah (Ann Blyth) falls in love with a prince (Vic Damone). It's up to Hajj to see that Marsinah and her prince marry and live happily ever after

There's not a great deal to the story, but the music is absolutely glorious, with highlights including "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," "Night of My Nights," "Not Since Nineveh," and my favorites "Stranger in Paradise" and "And This is My Beloved."

"And This is My Beloved" made me cry all over again on this viewing, not least because of the amazing talent of beautiful Ann Blyth, who is so deserving of the year-long career profile she is receiving at Jacqueline Lynch's Another Old Movie Blog.

The film's Jack Cole choreography admittedly doesn't work for me, but I overlook it because the score is so wonderful.

The movie was directed by Vincente Minnelli, with Stanley Donen doing uncredited work. Ann Blyth related at the TCM Festival that Minnelli's heart was not in the movie; he was forced by the studio to make KISMET against his wishes, and all he wanted was to move on to his pet project, LUST FOR LIFE (1956). Despite that, Minnelli made a film which was significantly better than I had remembered from my long-ago viewing, and it deserves a fresh look from others who love musicals.

KISMET runs 113 minutes. The supporting cast includes Dolores Gray, Sebastian Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Monty Woolley, Ted de Corsia, Mike Mazurki, and Jack Elam. Look for Jamie Farr and Aaron Spelling in bit roles.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is simply superb in every respect. The CinemaScope cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg has never looked better. I'm still not a fan of Minnelli's color palette for this film, but this surely must look as good as it gets. What's more, the sound quality is remarkably excellent. That's not something that I necessarily always notice, but it was a real standout to me.

Extras have been included from the 2008 standard DVD release, including audio and video outtakes, the CinemaScope short THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG (1955), and the Tex Avery cartoon THE FIRST BAD MAN (1955). The disc also has a song selection menu for those who'd like to skip directly to the best parts!

Other MGM musicals which have been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive and previously reviewed here: HIT THE DECK (1955) and BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO (1962).

KISMET on Blu-ray is highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks for the mention, Laura. The new Blu-Ray release of KISMET sounds wonderful. So glad at least some of our classics are being cared for, and I agree that the music from this show is sublimely beautiful.

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