Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Victor Mature and Richard Widmark
KISS OF DEATH (1947). Director: Henry Hathaway.

Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) has already served one term in prison, when in desperation he participates in another robbery and is caught. The D.A. (Brian Donlevy) offers him a deal if he names names, but Bianco refuses to squeal. But when he finds out that his wife is dead and his two adorable little girls are in an orphanage, he wants to see them and changes his tune. Unfortunately, this brings him into deadly conflict with the gleefully sociopathic Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark), who thinks nothing of pushing an old lady in a wheelchair (Mildred Dunnock) to her death in the film's most famous scene. Mature gives one of his best performances in this, and Widmark is also swell, although at times he seems like Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, and at other times like Leo Gorcey of the Eastside Kids. Donlevy is also solid, as is lovely Coleen Gray [The Leech Woman] as Nettie, who loves Nick. Taylor Holmes registers as Nick's deceptively pleasant defense attorney. There are tense scenes that work without music but could have used some. Best shot: a sneering Tommy Udo through the slit in a curtain. This picture almost qualifies as film noir except there's no femme fatale, just a brief appearance by one of Udo's girlfriends. This was Coleen Gray's first major role and she delivers.

Verdict: Well-done and well-acted crime film. ***.

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