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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Kiss Them for Me (1957)

"Life on a carrier. I'll sum it up briefly—no wine, no women, no song."
- Commander Andy Crewson (Cary Grant)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: January 05, 2004

Stars: Cary Grant, Jayne Mansfield, Leif Erickson, Suzy Parker, Ray Walston, Larry Blyden, Nathaniel Frey, Werner Klemperer, Jack Mullaney
Other Stars: Richard Deacon, Nancy Kulp, Frank Nelson, Harry Carey, Jr.
Director: Stanley Donen

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:42m:08s
Release Date: January 06, 2004
UPC: 024543102663
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ CAC+ C-

DVD Review

Kiss Them for Me provides irrefutable proof that the talents of a top-notch director, renowned writer, and legendary star don't necessarily insure cinematic success. Heaven knows, Stanley Donen, Julius J. Epstein (who co-wrote Casablanca) and Cary Grant labored long and hard to inject some joie de vivre into this lame soldiers-on-leave yarn, but the featherweight subject matter sabotages their efforts at every turn. The result is a meandering, often witless comedy that consistently fails to engage the viewer. On the Town this definitely ain't.

Complicating matters is the film's maddening identity crisis. Kiss Them for Me often jarringly switches from idiotic romantic hijinks to sobering dramatic sequences that try too hard to make meaningful "statements" about war and valor. Such moments come out of nowhere, stop the film cold, and make it difficult for the movie to regain its comic momentum. Although the production admirably strives to fortify its fluffy plot with substance, it does so in a sloppy, awkward manner that wipes out any impact potential.

Grant portrays Commander Andy Crewson, the leader of a trio of war-weary fighter pilots (Ray Walston and Larry Blyden are the other two) who wrangle a four-day furlough to San Francisco in 1944. Despite a dire room shortage, they check into a swanky hotel, snare the VIP suite and use their heroic status to convince management to waive all charges. Almost immediately, the wild parties begin, populated by plenty of gorgeous, soon-to-be-inebriated girls, including airhead Alice Kratzner (Jayne Mansfield) and statuesque Gwinneth Livingston (Suzy Parker), a frosty socialite engaged to shipping magnate Eddie Turnbill (Leif Erickson). Turnbill offers to extend the leave of Crewson and his jaded crew if they'll give a series of inspirational speeches to boost homefront morale, but the officers refuse to exploit their heroism. Crewson dallies with Alice before turning up the heat with Gwinneth in an attempt to melt her icy façade and woo her away from the equally rigid Eddie. Complications and confrontations ensue before the men regain their fighting spirit and sense of patriotic duty.

Made just 11 years after the end of World War II, Kiss Them for Me surprisingly treats the global conflict with unabashed cynicism—a unique angle for what is, in all other respects, a highly typical military comedy. Fed up with the horrors of battle, Crewson and his cronies try anything, short of desertion, to stall their return to combat. Although many real-life soldiers must have possessed similar feelings, it's amazing such controversial views found their way into a mainstream film, especially at a time when the war was still treated with nostalgic reverence by all of the major studios. Of course, shrouded in farce, the anti-war message loses most of its sting, but broaching the subject at all remains an impressive feat for the period.

Grant calls upon his trademark charm to carry him along, sailing through the proceedings with energy, humor, and debonair style, but there's only so much he can do on his own. To be at his best, he requires a sparring partner with equal panache and spitfire—someone like Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, or Ingrid Bergman. Instead, he's saddled with a poor man's Marilyn Monroe on one side and an Audrey Hepburn wannabe on the other. Mansfield proudly (and consistently) flaunts her 40-inch bust, but acts like an inflatable Betty Boop doll, complete with squeaky voice and brainless one-liners. It's no wonder Grant quickly pawns her off on Walston so he can pursue Parker, but she's hardly an improvement. In her film debut, the model-turned-actress struggles to recite the most innocuous lines, lacks timing and finesse, and never begins to approach the level of repartee necessary for a Grant co-star. She winds up as nothing more than a cardboard mannequin, utterly unworthy of Grant's fascination or affection.

Fans of TV sitcoms will recognize a host of former, current, and future stars in roles ranging from mere walk-ons to full-fledged supporting parts. Spotting Werner Klemperer (Hogan's Heroes), Richard Deacon (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Nancy Kulp (The Beverly Hillbillies) and Frank Nelson (who played many bit parts on shows such as I Love Lucy and The Jack Benny Show) is a fun diversion, and their performances help enliven the all-too-bland proceedings.

In the end, Kiss Them for Me never picks up enough steam or provokes enough laughter to keep audiences involved. Grant tries to ignite a few sparks with Parker, but even his irresistible moves can't thaw her out or heat up the action. Donen's dull, stagy direction and Epstein's anemic script join forces to suck any life out of this tedious wartime comedy.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Fox has done a fabulous job transferring Kiss Them for Me to DVD, using spotless source material filled with bright, vibrant colors, excellent contrast, and consistent, natural fleshtones. Grant looks almost as tan as George Hamilton, while the exceptional clarity lends Mansfield's platinum blonde hair a plastic sheen only rivaled by Barbie dolls. The film's lush hues are especially gratifying and a welcome surprise, considering Deluxe (not Technicolor) supplied the color. No fading or digital enhancements afflict this beautiful anamorphic widescreen presentation, which makes the film look like it was made a few years—instead of a few decades—ago.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Unfortunately, the Dolby stereo track sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, possessing a hollow timbre that lacks any presence or depth. To properly hear the dialogue, the volume needs to be raised far above normal levels, and even then the audio sounds flat and lifeless. The score, which features many wonderful romantic standards, could use some more sonic pop as well. Any age-related defects, however, have been erased.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring An Affair to Remember, I Was A Male War Bride, Monkey Business, People Will Talk
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Still Gallery
Extras Review: The main supplement is an image gallery featuring 33 production and publicity stills, all in black-and-white. Worth a cursory run-through, the slide show suffers from a lack of captions. It's easy to recognize Grant, Mansfield, Parker, Walston, and other supporting players, but many of the images contain unidentified persons, and brief captions would have added meaning and context to the historical stills.

The film's original trailer, a teaser, and trailers for four other Grant films complete the disc extras.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Far from Cary Grant's best comedy, Kiss Them for Me is a lackluster, uneven romp that flits between silly and serious episodes, while tossing in some tepid romance. Amateurish performances by Jayne Mansfield and Suzy Parker conspire to sink this formulaic farce that even a sumptuous transfer can't save.

 


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