Latest Review – Kiss of Death [Blu-ray] [Twilight Time]


Director: Henry Hathaway

Cast: Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, Taylor Holmes, Mildred Dunnock

UK Distributor: Twilight Time

Genre: Film-Noir | Crime | Drama • Year: 1947 • Country: United States • Running Time: 99 minutes (1:38:59) • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 • Image: B & W • Language: English • Rating: Not Rated • Region: Region Free • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio • Subtitles: Optional English SDH

Limited Edition of 3,000 Units

Filmed on location in and around New York City, and told in the director’s trademark semi-documentary style, Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death is now widely recognised as a key work of the 1940s ‘classic period’ of American film noir cinema, adapted from an original 100-page manuscript by Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, Eleazar Lipsky (itself derived from a collection of his own case files).

Prior to his numerous starring roles in the big-budget biblical epics of the 1950s (for which he is perhaps now best associated), Victor Mature stars as Nick Bianco, a down-on-his-luck ex-convict arrested and jailed for 20-years in Sing Sing Prison following a failed Christmas Eve jewel heist.

Though initially refusing to rat on his three cohorts (despite the lure of a significantly reduced sentence), tragic news from back home forces him to relent. Following a successful parole Bianco attempts to go straight and begins a happy new life, though he soon finds himself stalked by psychopathic killer Tommy Udo, a sadistic former jail-mate now out for revenge against the stool pigeon for ‘squealing’ on him.

Building on the success of his stand-out turn as ‘Doc’ Holliday in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine, released one year prior, Victor Mature is at his sturdy, solid best as the tormented Bianco, and there are strong supporting performances from the likes of the experienced Brian Donlevy and newcomer Coleen Gray, though in his very first film role, it is fellow newcomer Richard Widmark who proves the breakout star, delivering a career-making turn of terrifying proportions as the giggling, murderous sociopathic, Udo.

True to form, Hathaway’s gritty, hard-edged thriller does indeed unfold with a documentary-style realism – beautifully shot by cinematographer Norbert Brodine – though as the film progresses, neo-realism gives way to pure noir at its most gripping, and the bleak, unsettling urban landscape becomes a fascinating playground for the inevitable cat and mouse chase to follow.

Whilst it may not have the depth and scope of noir masterworks Double Indemnity (1944) and Out of the Past (1947), Kiss of Death remains not only a hardened and engrossing thriller but a key entry in the noir canon.

Special Features: 

Isolated Score Track | Audio Commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman | Audio Commentary with Film Historians James Ursini and Alain Silver | Original Theatrical Trailer (2:20) | 6-Page Booklet: Featuring Production Stills and Booklet Essay by Julie Kirgo

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