Kiss Me, Stupid (Blu-ray)(Olive Films, 2.17.2015)
At the time of its release, Billy Wilder’s Kiss Me, Stupid was maligned, but not for reasons that carry much weight in 2015. Many felt Wilder drifted too far into smuttiness, crossing enough lines of good taste to earn the condemnation of the Catholic Legion of Decency. But looked at from a modern perspective, there’s nothing particularly offensive about the film’s portrait of sex addiction, prostitution, and convoluted infidelity. If anything, Wilder was ahead of his time, exploring troubling neuroses and relationship dynamics long before Hollywood was comfortable tackling these topics. In fact, seen alongside the more successful, fantasy-oriented comedies of the ’60s, Kiss Me, Stupid seems refreshingly modern.
While the film has lost most of its ability to shock, its narrative remains fascinating for its blithe, carefree irreverence. Ray Walston plays Orville, a songwriter and music teacher, who has a paranoid belief that his beautiful wife Zelda (Felicia Farr) is seeking a more attractive mate. When celebrated crooner Dino (Dean Martin) passes through Orville’s isolated neighborhood, he smells a professional opportunity and uses some automotive trickery to trap the singer at his house. Fearing that the sex-addicted Dino will wind up in bed with his wife, Orville scares Zelda off (on their anniversary, no less) and hires a prostitute (Kim Novak) to take her place.
Made with impressive visual precision and a skill for layered, high concept farce, Kiss Me, Stupid is significantly more accomplished than its reputation would suggest. While most of the film takes place in a single house, Wilder has no trouble holding our interest for the film’s excessive running time of 124 minutes. Kiss Me, Stupid doesn’t have the iconic charm or sensitivity of Wilder’s best comedies, and Ray Walston makes for a deeply unsympathetic protagonist -- a heart attack caused original star Peter Sellers to drop out -- but this is an undeniably inventive, original, well-crafted comedy.
Fans of Kiss Me, Stupid will be pleasantly surprised by this disc, as it features a terrific HD transfer that nicely captures the precision of Wilder’s striking widescreen visuals. The only extra is the film's memorable theatrical trailer. -- Jonathan Doyle