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Kismet [Import]

Ronald Colman , Marlene Dietrich , William Dieterle    Unrated   VHS Tape
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Kismet is a 1944 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film in Technicolor starring Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Joy Page, and Florence Bates. James Craig played the young Caliph of Baghdad, and Edward Arnold was the treacherous Grand Vizier. It was directed by William Dieterle, but was not a success at the box office. The film is based on the play of the same name by Edward Knoblock, which was also the basis for a 1953 musical. The play had been filmed three times before, in 1914, 1920, and again in 1930 by Warner Brothers in an English version directed by John Francis Dillon and in a German-language version directed by William Dieterle.

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2.0 out of 5 stars Three Good Stars Do Not a Hit Guarantee Oct. 11 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Well, I don't usually say this, but I agree with review karen kullers, who really pans this film--it really isn't a good picture at all. It should have been, though, with Colman as a beggar pretending to be a prince, Dietrich as a harem lady, and Edward Arnold as the wily villain.
You can also tell it was an expensive movie, with costly sets and costumes, but it is ineptly directed and negligently cast in its supporting roles. Colman makes repeated statements about the magnificence of his daughter, and the shame is that his boasts would be completely unfounded. The daughter is played by the same actress who appears in "Casablanca" as the young wife that Claude Rains almost seduces in exchange for transporting her and her husband to safety. She is really not much to write home about. A sweet-looking girl in some shots, but without any star appeal at all. She struck me as the REALLY poor man's Linda Darnell. And the caliph, her lover who disguises himself as a gardener's son, has no bearing and no talent to boot. He isn't even handsome.
Ronald Colman has long stretches where he doesn't encounter the other two talented stars, but must instead interact with the bad supporting cast. This strain is too much to be borne. Marlene Dietrich turns in possibly the worst performance of her career. And as for the gold paint on her legs, I thought that missed by about a mile. Her legs looked heavy and dirty consequently--and the choreography looked like it was for a WPA mural. Only Edward Arnold made out okay (he even looked slimmer, thanks to the unusual tailoring), but the final climactic grappling with Colman drew hoots from me and the other watchers, one of whom remarked that it looked like two fathers-in-law fighting at a wedding reception. Very undignified and unconvincing.
Perhaps my brother said it best: "TutorGal, this ought to teach you--there are no forgotten masterpieces."
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5.0 out of 5 stars KISMET Dec 31 2012
Format:DVD-R|Verified Purchase
This one will have to stay in the stack for a few days until I can view it. I'll let you know in a while.

Roy Bartlett
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2.0 out of 5 stars The shame of Marlene June 26 2000
Format:VHS Tape
In this picture Marlene looks stupid. The costumes and the dance are silly. The story is not original and the script is bad. Only the colors are good. Just for Marlene's lovers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate Masterpiece of Arabian Kitsch Aug. 17 2009
By Alberto M. Barral - Published on Amazon.com
This story about the king of the beggars of Baghdad marrying off his daughter off to royalty is certainly popular in film. There are several silent versions: 1914, 1916, 1920, and of course the 1955 musical. However the only competition for this masterpiece was made in 1930, featuring that great queen of camp, Loretta Young, but is now a 'lost' film, so until a copy is found this one remains the undisputed masterpiece of the genre.

Ronald Colman plays Hafiz the great thief to perfection, including the extremely difficult task of balancing a turban the size of a small cupola on his head for the audience with the Grand Vizier that would have annihilated a less hardy specimen. As a matter of fact the costumes in this film are important enough to merit the treatment of a main character: They are so exquisitely ridiculous and the material so obviously synthetic, overwrought, clashing in color and style and so overwhelmingly kitsch that it is the DEFINITIVE example for the period and genre. Nothing like this has been since before or since, thank God. Although the film is in color you could swear they had color blind designers working you will see dangerous combinations of color never since surpassed; emerald green and magenta, scarlet and deep blue, saffron orange and mustard yellow....these are just some samplings but you have to add the swimming pools/fountains in every corner shining in acid-sapphire, the elaborate Formica lattice work of the harem walls, the spectacular shine of gold plated plastic jewelry....it is a thousand nightmares of design wrapped neatly into one movie, to be treasured forever. This is not a movie to rent, you have to BUY this film and watch it several times to appreciate it in detail.

The most outstanding performance is of course, Marlene Dietrich as Jamilla, the 'Macedonian' wife and queen of the grand Vizier (Edward Arnold) who by the way is the closest I have ever seen to a slab of prosciutto in the shape of a human, stuffed into severe velour's-metal embroidered tunics that could asphyxiate an elephant in an Indian wedding. But back to Jamilla: Her dance sequence is one of those moments in Hollywood history for which there are simply no superlatives or adjectives that can approximate the exhilaration of watching it. It would be like trying to describe the explosion of an atomic bomb at sunset in the Sahara. I will just say that never has a human being been capable of moving so gracefully with so much hair piled up in a complex ziggurat on her head while heavily burdened with a solid gold embroidered camisole, gold painted limbs, and enough bracelet weight to sink the titanic. There is not a moment in which she is not batting away three pairs of false eyelashes per eye, while holding an inane conversation with utmost interest, maintaining a dangerous cleavage line in place and holding a completely transparent veil to her chin. One half of this coordinated effort would have killed Ms.Paltrow and her tepid generation of clone-blonds, they certainly don't make them like that anymore! James Craig is the very handsome Caliph who plays at being the gardener's son to romance Hafiz's child, the demure Marsinah ( Joy Ann Page) he even manages to be pretty normally dressed except for the severe crown he puts on in the morning to write letters which would have crushed any skull for karat weight in diamonds. Marsinah always looks plain and innocent, even while dancing and chanting, then she is taken away to the palace in a litter that looks like a plasticized, enlarged fabergé egg and when we see her again she is always crying because she is being forced to marry the Grand Vizier by her father, but I thought it was because she could not stand her violet outfit and her hideous tiara that was crushing her brains with a small hill of diamonds and a cataract to boot, falling down her forehead.

The excitement of watching the scenes is not so much out of the plot development as it is to see what they could possibly wear next. I will not detail Marlene's last outfit, in which she rides away with her true love into happily ever after because I am still blinded by the impact. Run, don't walk to get this movie! There is no way anyone can be disappointed with so many colors in every scene, this is the ultimate Ali Baba, Thief of Baghdad movie!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have heard of the word, now see the movie "Kismet" July 7 2001
By Lawrance M. Bernabo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
"Kismet" is an Arabian Nights fantasy about Hafiz (Ronald Colman), a scheming beggar in the court of the Caliph (James Craig), who wins the hand of the dancing girl (Marlene Dietrich), the mistress of Mansur, the Grand Vizier (Edward Arnold). There are all sorts of palace intrigues going on, but Hafiz has an edge because knows magic. This 1944 film, directed by William Dieterle, cost $3,000,000, which was considered by many to be extravagant given the wartime shortages. "Kismet" had been filmed three times previously and while it is a luscious production, the main problem is, surprisingly enough, the two stars. Colman is not well suited to this particular role and Dietrich does not really have much to do besides dance and look good. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The musical version, featuring the song "Stranger in Paradise," was filmed in 1955. It is a toss-up as to which one is better.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Three Good Stars Do Not a Hit Guarantee Oct. 11 2001
By Linda McDonnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Well, I don't usually say this, but I agree with review karen kullers, who really pans this film--it really isn't a good picture at all. It should have been, though, with Colman as a beggar pretending to be a prince, Dietrich as a harem lady, and Edward Arnold as the wily villain.
You can also tell it was an expensive movie, with costly sets and costumes, but it is ineptly directed and negligently cast in its supporting roles. Colman makes repeated statements about the magnificence of his daughter, and the shame is that his boasts would be completely unfounded. The daughter is played by the same actress who appears in "Casablanca" as the young wife that Claude Rains almost seduces in exchange for transporting her and her husband to safety. She is really not much to write home about. A sweet-looking girl in some shots, but without any star appeal at all. She struck me as the REALLY poor man's Linda Darnell. And the caliph, her lover who disguises himself as a gardener's son, has no bearing and no talent to boot. He isn't even handsome.
Ronald Colman has long stretches where he doesn't encounter the other two talented stars, but must instead interact with the bad supporting cast. This strain is too much to be borne. Marlene Dietrich turns in possibly the worst performance of her career. And as for the gold paint on her legs, I thought that missed by about a mile. Her legs looked heavy and dirty consequently--and the choreography looked like it was for a WPA mural. Only Edward Arnold made out okay (he even looked slimmer, thanks to the unusual tailoring), but the final climactic grappling with Colman drew hoots from me and the other watchers, one of whom remarked that it looked like two fathers-in-law fighting at a wedding reception. Very undignified and unconvincing.
Perhaps my brother said it best: "TutorGal, this ought to teach you--there are no forgotten masterpieces."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE HOTTEST WARTIME HIT: BILLBOARD MAGIC March 28 2009
By Josef Bush - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
One shouldn't be too hard on this piece of wartime diversion; after all, the nation was in total mobilization. Everythign was subject to the War Effort -- something we can hardly imagine now -- and people were working night and day for not much money, and it needed some fun. Though KISMET looks foolish to contemporary movie purists, this movie was a big hit at the time. It tantalized the nation into a frenzy.

Don't forget, this movie was made at a time of national rationing, and many shortages. Not only was gas rationed, but also rubber, food, light and energy in all forms. Everything that wasn't military and dedicated to the War Effort, was incredibly expensive. Hollywood suffered. There was a shortage of talent. There were virtually no young men anywhere in the country, certainly no photogenic ones, except possibly in prisons. That's why in this movie and in most of those produced in wartime, by most studios, most of the extras are old men. Even the secondary characters here, are old. There were virtually no available stars: Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, both were in uniform, along with all the best or top drawer American leading men. Ronald Raegan was notoriously civilian, and only wore uniform in OSS propaganda movies advising boys on ways to avoid giving away strategic information, or getting VD. And so, in this movie the men are old, the costumes with one exception are dull; the scenery has been rescued from back lot storage and carpentered together from earlier pieces from other exotic films. The story itself was a resurrection of an Edwardian hit and vehicle for Otis Skinner, KISMET, that played on stage for decades and spawned many versions on stage and screen. But the country was so hungry for anything that would help us get our minds off that damned war, we went wild when we saw the enormous billboards along the highways and over the downtown buildings, of Dietrich reclining on cushions, stretched out thirty feet long and eighteen feet high in fantastic, spangled semi-nudity, in a Petty Girl pinup pose, displaying those long, barbarously gilded legs. Sex!

So, to make it short, KISMET is a curiosity piece. Ronald Coleman was long in the tooth, but he was still popular on the Radio though his film career was virtually over. He wasn't sexy, but he could muster a kind of avuncular charm. Probably he was the best the producer could find.

From start to finish the movie was a vehicle for Dietrich, and she was an expert in hokum sales. She learned from Mae West. She knew that the impression of beauty is more vivid that beauty itself, and knew how to create that impression and to animate it. As Jamillah, the jewel of the harem, she knew the story must focus on her beauty and its ability to provoke erotic desire. So, she began by having created for herself, a series of quasi-oriental hair-dos that would be more amazing than any ever seen in Hollywood. These coifs virtually defy description, and their principal feature is that they spring away from her hairline in such a way that from any and every angle, her skin can be seen as perfectly free of freckles, wrinkles or blemishes; flawless. She shows that there are no surgical scars behind her ears, or any sign that she has ever undergone cosmetic surgery. And remember, in 1944 she was 44. Her body was trim and her belly flat. She was able to wear a bare midriff costume that dramatized her figure without falsifying it in any way. Her upper-body with its splendid [...] was clothed in a series of magnificently designed and sewn and constructed semi-transparent brassiers or boustiers, essentially, that appear to have been made by Karinska, the Russian costumier. (Please forgive me if I'm mistaken.) And then there's the Dance itself, the central fold-out piece in this magic box of a Persian tale. It was written about often in all the Hurst newspaper supplements and most movie magazines; it was a spectacle with dansing girls featuring herself as soloists in a kutsch modeled after Ruth St. Denis' INCENSE, and appeared to have been choreographed by Tilly Losch for her. Sure, it was the old nightclub interpretive slither as practiced for years from St. Denis to Valerie Betis, but it worked. For five minutes it made her look like the most beautiful woman in the world, dancing in a state of narcissistic sexual arousal for the pleasure of a short-tempered and voluptuous potentate, in his sumptuous palace. That was enough.

The trick is to see how she did it. Not just the dance itself; how it was staged and choreographed, but how Dieterlie built the story around it as a pedestal for that sole performance, using a second rate cast -- including (for contrast) a second lead female as virginal and drab as any sparrow -- a hackneyed story and some painted flats. It's an exercise in how to create anticipation. You need good lights and a professional cinematagropher, at least. Tantalization. That's why its so sexy. As everybody knows (everybody but the young and inexperienced) anticipation is always more exciting than fulfilment. And, of course, you need a performer who knows what she's doing.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bad copy Dec 24 2008
By Mr. T. Tak - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very bad copy, like a copy from some VHS tape. I could have done it better myself, because I've got a better version of this film on a video-cassette somewhere.
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