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

Thursday, April 10, 2014


KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (1948). Director: Norman Foster.

In post-WW2 England Bill Saunders (Burt Lancaster) -- who thinks with his fists -- lashes out at a middle-aged bar owner simply because he says it's closing time and inadvertently kills the man. He runs off -- and hides out in the apartment of lady doctor Jane Wharton (Joan Fontaine). Jane tries to resist her attraction to Bill, but gets drawn deeper into his unsavory life, and winds up committing an act  of violence herself. Does this screwed-up couple have any hope? Frankly, it's hard to care about this romance of two unsympathetic people. Jane makes dumb excuses for Bill, and Bill never gives a thought to the man he killed or his family. Thrown into the mix is a creepy guy named Harry (Robert Newton of Obsession) who wants to get Bill involved in criminal activities, but whose chief purpose is to introduce someone Bill can feel morally superior to. It's as if the film is telling the audience: "See, Bill isn't so bad. Now this guy is a rotter." [But as far as we know Harry was never responsible for anyone's death.] Then there's the casting. Joan Fontaine can certainly play a woman who is obsessed with one man -- witness Letter from an Unknown Woman -- but she simply seems too intelligent to fall so hard for this loser, the vagaries of love notwithstanding. Lancaster also gives a good performance, by Hollywood standards at least, getting across the man's violence but not necessarily the aspects that make him a love object for Jane. Although only 80 minutes long the movie eventually becomes tedious, which is a shame because it has atmospheric photography by Russell Metty [The Omega Man], a nice score by Miklos Rozsa, adroit direction and editing -- but, sadly, a script that is lacking, to say the least. Norman Foster also directed the film noir Woman on the Run and many others.

Verdict: At least it has a good -- if kind of gross -- title. **. 

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