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KISS ME, STUPID

While KISS ME, STUPID ($20) finds co-writer/director Billy Wilder at his cynical comic best, the film was, unfortunately, ill received at the time of its release. Due to the censorship of the time, the movie business was a very different thing back in 1964. This made it difficult, if not downright impossible for filmmakers to touch upon adult subject matter, even in comic form, which handicapped Wilder on this particular production. For that reason, KISS ME, STUPID was advertised to an "adults only" audience and was released through Lopert Pictures Corporation, instead of United Artists (due to the racy material of Wilder’s film). Making matters worse, KISS ME, STUPID was even condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, which had the effect of helping to keep the circa 1964 audiences away from the film. Of course, all of this seems pretty silly now, because KISS ME, STUPID is rather tame by today’s standards. Even with a story permeated by sex and infidelity, KISS ME, STUPID is the kind of movie that would only garner a PG rating.

The plot of KISS ME, STUPID follows a womanizing musical entertainer named Dino (Dean Martin), who makes an unexpected stopover in the town of Climax, Nevada, while driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. During his unscheduled overnight stay, Dino finds himself in the home of piano teacher and amateur songwriter Orville Spooner (Ray Walston) and his wife Zelda (Felicia Farr). Taking advantage of Dino’s insatiable appetite for women to sell some of his songs, Orville substitutes cocktail waitress Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak) for the real Mrs. Spooner, with the intent of Polly showing Dino some "hospitality," while Orville makes his musical sales pitch. Of course, the real comedy comes when Polly begins liking the notion of being Mrs. Spooner for an evening, as does the notoriously jealous Orville.

KISS ME, STUPID features some really fine performances, Martin does a hilarious self-parody and Walston is amusingly abrasive, but completely likable. One could only imagine what Peter Sellers would have done with the role of Orville, since he was Wilder’s original choice and had been shooting for several weeks before withdrawing from the production after suffering a heart attack. Getting back to the completed film, it is Kim Novak that supplies KISS ME, STUPID with its emotional center by giving a rather endearing performance as the "party girl" that longs to be domestic. Felicia Farr is a genuine delight as the real Mrs. Spooner and it is nice that the DVD offers European version of the film, which changes one crucial scene- thus giving Farr’s performance and the film a bit more resonance. The cast of KISS ME, STUPID also includes Cliff Osmond, Barbara Pepper, Bobo Lewis, Tommy Nolan, John Fiedler, Mel Blanc and Henry Gibson.

MGM Home Entertainment has made KISS ME, STUPID available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer for KISS ME, STUPID is taken from a rather nice black and white film element that doesn’t betray the fact that the movie is nearly four decades old. Some very minor blemishes and tiny scratches are about the worst signs of age on the film element. The image appears rather sharp and pretty nicely defined, with a good sense of depth. Blacks are perfectly inky and whites appear pure and stable. Contrast is very good and the grayscale provides plenty of variation. A grain structure is noticeable in places, but never becomes overwhelming. Digital compression artifacts usually remain out of sight.

KISS ME, STUPID comes with a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Age isn’t much of a problem as most of the background hiss and other sonic anomalies have been removed from the track during the mastering process. Fidelity is pretty much at "mid-fi"- without clearly distinct top and bottom ends. Still, the track sounds quite pleasant when given a bit of amplification during Dino and Orville’s musical numbers (via George and Ira Gershwin). Dialogue is crisp and always completely intelligible. A French monaural soundtrack is also provided on the DVD, along with English, Spanish and French subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer, theatrical teaser and the alternate American version of one scene.

KISS ME, STUPID is another undervalued gem from Billy Wilder- one of the twentieth century’s greatest filmmakers. The movie is quite funny and makes a genuine statement about love, sex and fidelity. MGM has done a rather good job with the DVD presentation, giving Wilder fans nothing to complain about. If you are a fan of Wilder, Martin, Novak or Walston, than you will definitely want to check out KISS ME, STUPID on DVD.

 

KISS ME, STUPID 


Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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