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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brutally fun movie! This is what happens when two sociopaths collide!
This review is for the 2005 Warner Brothers DVD.

The story starts in Reno, Nevada where Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) receives a divorce. She goes home to a boarding house and overhears a young woman named Laury discussing her love life with an older, drunken woman named Mrs Kraft. At one point, Laury tells Mrs. Kraft that she is going out with a different man...
Published on July 29, 2005 by Daniel C. Markel

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wise to Their Ways
No director has ventured further into more genres than Robert Wise. Here the man who made, of all movies, "The Sound of Music" tackles its polar opposite, the small, smoky, searing melodrama of betrayal that is film noir. In "Born to Kill," available singly but part of a second DVD boxed set, Wise steers a steady stylistic course while at the same time driving in reverse...
Published on July 6, 2005 by Vince Perrin


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brutally fun movie! This is what happens when two sociopaths collide!, July 29, 2005
By 
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
This review is for the 2005 Warner Brothers DVD.

The story starts in Reno, Nevada where Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) receives a divorce. She goes home to a boarding house and overhears a young woman named Laury discussing her love life with an older, drunken woman named Mrs Kraft. At one point, Laury tells Mrs. Kraft that she is going out with a different man tonight simply to make her steady boyfriend Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney) jealous. Sam runs into the dating couple later that evening at a casino. Later that night Sam confronts Laury's date in the boardinghouse kitchen and a violent fight insues and Sam, in impressive fashion, kills the other man. Laury then comes in the kitchen and discovers the body and then Sam kills her. Shortly thereafter Helen returns home and finds the dead couple but for some reasons decides not to call the police and instead takes a train to San Francisco. Just by coincidence, Sam takes the same train and sits with her and this sets up a turbulent, yet fascinating relationship between the two for the rest of the movie.

I really enjoyed this movie for a number of reasons. First, the beautiful Claire Trevor plays a morally bankrupt golddigger, but does it with such superficial charm and grace. Second, there are some other memorable performances by Walter Slezak who plays an articulate, but morally depraved detective and Elisha Cook Jr. does a fine job as Sam's pint-sized sidekick. But most of all, Lawrence Tierney does a great job as the quintessential tough guy who knows what he wants and brazenly goes after it. He clearly displays raw acting talent, but his dead cold stares and his overtly blunt directness, is what makes him so perfect for this role.

For those of you who are not familiar with Lawrence Tierney, in the early '90s he played the leader of a crime gang in the movie Reservoir Dogs. But another memorable role worth mentioning was that he once played Elaine's tough, no-nonsense father on an episode of Seinfeld. According the commentary on the Seinfield DVD, Tierney scared the cast so badly that they never had him back on. Apparently Tierney stole a butcher knife from Jerry's TV kitchen and hid it under his jacket. When Seinfeld asked him about it, Tierney pulled out the knife and started making the Psycho slashing-violins sound. On the Born to Kill commentary, director Robert Wise mentions that Tierney was an intimidating tough guy in real life and was repeatedly arrested for getting in fights in bars. In fact, Wise mentions that they used a stunt double for Tierney in the fight scene, not because they were afraid that Tierney would get hurt - far from it; they were afraid that he couldn't restrain himself once the fight scene started.

The picture quality is near-immaculate. Traces of film wear are virtually nonexistent. The sound is satisfactory. The DVD bonus features include commentary from noir expert and author Eddie Muller plus some audio sound bites from director Robert Wise.

PLEASE NOTE: Before buying this DVD, consider buying the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 which contains this movie plus four other highly recommended movies at a very reasonable price.

Movie: A

DVD Quality: A
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your roots are down where mine are, September 28, 2005
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
While in Reno for a quickie divorce ambitious socialite Claire Trevor meets ambitious thug Lawrence Tierney. The next day, by coincidence, they board the same train for San Francisco. By the time they arrive at the city by the bay they are warily falling for each other. What Claire doesn't know yet is that Tierney was the one who murdered the man and woman she stumbled over the night before.

Trevor and Tierney play two very twisted individuals in Robert Wise's 1947 BORN TO KILL, whose original title, "Deadlier Than the Male," indicates where the serious weirdness is concentrated. Wise decision. Trevor's role, that of a good woman drawn to a very bad man, is the most complex part in the movie and she's utterly convincing. Her co-star, Tierney, is a whole other kettle of fish. On the commentary track film noir author Eddie Muller tells us this was Tierney's shot at `A' films after his smash hit in 1945's `B' film "Dillinger." BORN TO KILL comes bundled in a set of films that includes "Dillinger" and he essentially plays the same character here. With his George Raft-ian vocal inflections, flaring nostrils, and perpetual scowl Tierney is intimidating enough, but Tierney was a legendary bad-boy off-screen and I'm not sure whether the one-note tough guy acts were conscious decisions or simply an extension of his personality. As it is, beyond his intensity and ways with a knife or a cudgel he's not much less bland than the Good Half-Sister (Audrey Long) and the Good Fiancé Phillip Terry (probably most famous as Mr. Joan Crawford #4.)

If Trevor has to carry the main plot on her capable shoulders without a whole lot of help from her other top-of-the-billers, the under-cast is wonderful. The great Elisha Cook Jr. plays Tierney's prison buddy and nervous guardian, somewhat analogous to a chihuahua guarding a rottweiler that's just caught the first whiff of the scent of innocent blood. Walter Slezak plays the slightly sleazy private investigator hired by the loud, beer-loving, frumpy Esther Howard to investigate the murder of her friend in Reno. Esther Howard steals the movie, although Cook and Slezak give her a run for her money. Trevor makes it all worthwhile.

Although flawed and transparent in some spots, BORN TO KILL is immensely entertaining. While I was aware, before "Dillinger" and BORN TO KILL, of Lawrence Tierney and how his self-destructive behavior derailed a promising career, I thought he was wooden in both films. He certainly could project cold-blooded ruthlessness, though, and for this movie that's good enough. A very strong recommendation for this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wise to Their Ways, July 6, 2005
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
No director has ventured further into more genres than Robert Wise. Here the man who made, of all movies, "The Sound of Music" tackles its polar opposite, the small, smoky, searing melodrama of betrayal that is film noir. In "Born to Kill," available singly but part of a second DVD boxed set, Wise steers a steady stylistic course while at the same time driving in reverse. Based on the book "Deadlier Than the Male" and set in San Francisco, the movie focuses on its femme fatale (a classy Claire Trevor) rather than on the man (a stony Lawrence Tierney) who does her wrong.

That man does other people wrong, too, because, after all, he is born to kill. There seems to be no other reason for his rampant killing, which is what attracts Trevor (kinky), even after he marries her rich sister. By the time she is Wised up, it's too late for them to escape the cross-purposes of their passions; these people are so hard boiled they could roll unhurt down Nob Hill. For them, it is clear, everything will end badly. We would be cheated if it didn't. Film noir forbids happy endings.

Its sister heiresses (one a beauty, the other a deviant schemer) are right out of "The Big sleep." Walter Slezak as the portly private eye and Esther Howard as the blousy old dame who hires him are amusing. It's fun to be in wartime San Francisco, even when the editing confuses familiar locales (city dwellers will scratch their heads.) You see a movie like this to go slumming through messy lives and feeling superior to them. Plenty of opportunity to do that in "Born to Kill."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darker and more perverse than you can possibly imagine!, October 29, 2006
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
The oft-wasted (in both senses of the word) Lawrence Tierney is seen to much better effect than usual in Born to Kill, truly one of the most perverse noir romances of all time. The two leads aren't ill-starred lovers or victims of fate, they're born bad and they know it - indeed, nothing gets them hotter than talking about dead bodies. There is a rather worrying subtext that this is down to their lower-class birth, but you get the impression even if they had been born in high society that these two would have shown up the Borgias for the amateurs they were. At times it's hard to tell who is the more ruthless, Tierney's calculating but none-too-bright bull-headed murderous thug or Claire Trevor's magpie in the nest, who may not actually kill but probably does far worse - as Esther Howard says, she carries her own curse inside of her. There's great support from Elisha Cook ("I'm a baaad boy!") and, especially, Walter Slezak, superb as the wistfully philosophical private detective on their trail, open to the best offer going from either side but still not the stereotyped corrupt P.I. you expect from the genre, and refreshingly he isn't given the fate you expect either thanks to a constantly unexpected script by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay. The tarnished, slightly grubby conscience of a film noir like no other, he's the closest thing Robert Wise's superb movie has to a hero.

Warners DVD boasts a fine transfer and an excellent audio commentary by Eddie Muller that includes some outrageous Tierney stories for good measure. Highly recommended, and how!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CLAIRE TREVOR MEETS HER MATCH-NOIR STYLE!, June 24, 2006
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This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
Claire Trevor,one of Hollywood's GREATEST Actresses and one of the greatest femme fatale's in noir is a divorcee who meets tough guy Lawrence Tierney,in Nevada,and latter on a train headed back to Claire' San Francisco home,she is drawn to this lout of a man,despite the fact they appear to be polar opposites.Needless to say Claire,who does not play a softie in this film,doesn't known what she is in for,though she does like ,or so gives the impression,that she likes to live life close to the edge.The film noir icon Elisha Cook,jr(Wilmer-"The Maltese Falcon") is a friend/protector of the Tierney character,who after everything is said and done,probably wishes that he had NEVER met him.Esther Howard gives a wonderful performance as a blousey dame,who doesn't mind her own business,and Walter Slezak is a PI hired by Howard to find out what the odd Mr.Tierney is up to,his performance is OK,but I thought Charles Bickford or Sam Levene would have been a better choice.Claire is great,in a part she was born to play,and Tierney is appropriately chilly.Audrey Long and Phillip Terry also appear to minor effect.Robert Wise directs,by the numbers,if this film was directed by Siodmak,Lang,or Dassin it would have been a classic.Under Wise's direction it is only an above average noir.The DVD audio commentary is excellent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative Noir, July 9, 2005
By 
David Baldwin (Philadelphia,PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
The selling point of this film for me was the presence of Lawrence Tierney who made such an impression on me with his later character work in films like "Reservoir Dogs". The younger Tierney portrays an imposing powderkeg of a psychopath as Sam, a man with a chip on his shoulder a mile wide. Tierney conveys this pathology in a low-keyed manner with a drag from a cigarette or a glare that sends chills up your spine. The real revelation here is Claire Trevor as Helen who, despite the illusion of wealth and social status, is Sam's equal in the sociopath category. Trevor is one of the most unheralded actresses in screen history who, despite a history of consistently fine work ("Stagecoach", "Dead End", "Key Largo"), never gets proper recognition. The film contains alot of good character work with Walter Slezak as a philosophical private eye as a standout. This film makes many astute observations about human nature and alot of it is unsettling. A surprisingly frank film from a period in screen history not known for such provocativeness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clash of the Wicked., December 3, 2006
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
"Born to Kill" is probably the second-greatest film noir on the "amour fou" motif, next to 1949's "Gun Crazy". Two lovers' irrational infatuation lead them to depravity, madness, and eventual self-destruction. "Born to Kill" is not as persistent in its sexualization of violence as "Gun Crazy", but it's there. Based on the novel "Deadlier than the Male" by James Gunn, this is outwardly a twisted melodrama. Robert Wise directed the film with his characteristic decorum, which disappointed some European critics who would have preferred a more explicit exploration of the film's psychological and sexual aberration. The production code would not have allowed that, but I still find "Born to Kill" one of the darkest and most satisfying film noirs.

In Reno to get a quickie divorce, Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) stumbles upon 2 bodies in the kitchen of her boarding house. Instead of calling the police, she decides to return to San Francisco immediately to avoid publicity. On the train, Helen keeps the company of Sam Wild (Lawrence Tierney), a tough drifter to whom she finds herself attracted. Helen knows that Sam was the beau of the murdered woman in the kitchen, but she is unaware that Sam was her murderer. Sam is leaving town on the advice of his friend Mart (Elisha Cook, Jr.), who stays behind to keep abreast of the murder investigation. In San Francisco, Sam discovers that Helen is engaged to be married, so he sets his sights on Helen's rich foster sister Georgia (Audrey Long). But Helen and Sam's mutual infatuation, his compulsive violence, and a dogged private detective (Walter Slezak) threaten their plans.

"Born to Kill" was a big-budget noir with high-power stars and box office success in 1947. The sparks that fly between Sam and Helen were more than worth the price of admission. These two people are compelled by a perverse and inexplicable infatuation to destroy the security, the money, the freedom that they want so desperately. Helen and Sam may hate as much as desire one another, but they are two of a kind: deliberate, ruthless, ambitious, and somehow innately corrupt. Watching them dance around one another and go at each other is at once incomprehensible and completely fascinating. Sam is a rare "homme fatal" in classic film noir, suitably embodied by bad boy Lawrence Tierney. Claire Trevor looks stylish in her most complex noir role. "Born to Kill" is a real treat for film noir fans.

The DVD (Turner Home Enter. 2005): There is a good audio commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller, with some archival commentary by director Robert Wise that is barely audible. Wise talks about his experiences at RKO and with this film. Muller provides information on the actors, analysis of characters, scene-by-scene analysis of staging, tone, themes, and takes us through the stages of "amour fou" noir. Muller has interviewed both Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney, so he gives us the benefit of their recollections as well. Muller's story about "babysitting" Tierney at a screening of "Born to Kill" in 1999 is priceless. Subtitles are available for the film in English, French, and Spanish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You can't just go around killing people when the notion strikes you. It's just not feasible!", July 27, 2006
By 
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
The first section of this much-loved RKO feature are about as fine as a film noir can be. In a decadent Reno peopled with boozy divorcées and their shady male lovers, a psychopath (Lawrence Tierney) kills his girlfriend and her other romantic partner in her darkened house simply because he doesn't like someone taking what's his. But when the psychopath takes off for San Francisco and starts to pursue his equal number, a cold-hearted socialite (Claire Trevor), the film oddly shifts its tone and becomes a strange and uncomfortable mix of two 40s genres: the noir thriller and the toney women's picture. To get close to the engaged Trevor, Tierney's character, a former convict, almost immediately marries her extremely wealthy and innocent sister (Audrey Long), but the film ignores almost altogether any explanation of how two such opposites could ever interact with one another, and the brooding ex-convict Tierney--and his prison pal, Elisha Cook Jr!--seem to be so oddly out of place in Long's swanky mansion that the film seems to have slipped gears. The film is mostly memorable for its two antiheroes with a mutual taste for blood and getting what they want, Tierney and Trevor. The sick fun of the film comes in seeing how these two utter monsters will pull each other down eventually. Both are spectacularly cast, although poor Claire Trevor (looking here like a cross between Anne Baxter and Susan Hayward) seems to be constantly staggering under the weight of the florid assortment of giant hats the film's dress designer perches atop her head in every scene.

There is a superb character cameo from Esther Howard, who looks like a cross between an old toad and a Notre Dame gargoyle: the scene where Cook tries to murder in the sand dunes is both scary and very slapstick-funny. An added bonus: the DVD comes with a terrific commentary from film noir expert Eddie Muller, whose extensive knowledge about his subject (and great anecdotes about his dealing with Wise, Trevor and especially Tierney) coupled with his tough guy's voice make him ideally suited to his task.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pass; don ` t pass!, December 12, 2005
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
This admirable Noir explores the dark side of the human psyche until its final consequences.

During the first twenty minutes, there will be a sinister parade of prostitution, promiscuity, gambling, double cross, greed, ambition and sexual obsession that really defies any sort of logic and places on the crude and sorrowful perspective of living those hopeless years, of visible frustration, lack of reasons for going ahead, an impressive world of sordidness and hyper kinetic unbridle without limits.

From the clever sequence of the casino, where both lovers will met for first time, Wise handled the camera with astonishing clearness to evidence with a special emphasis for underlining the fieriness among this out of this world couple.

Both of them pursuit the same objective, but every one according particular codes, he is violent, temperamental, aggressive but extremely slow minded. She on the contrary, is cold, distant, calculator and evidently superior respect intelligence and domain of the human behavior. Both will be engaged in this web of passion, jealous, cover up and double cross in search of a pretended happiness that only can be made over midnight hours, where the jeopardy spies on in every corner.

Both of them will manipulate every one, sentimentally to their respective couples. An investigator will dare to show his jaws but he will retire himself - just in time - when he is aware the hazardous sea of sharks in which he is swimming.

A memorable portrait of a rotten underworld, where nobody is safe, a room with distorted mirrors, everywhere you look at. One of the most shocking pictures of this genre, that will lead you the extreme consequences you can reach, when you accept to bet and challenge the broken limits of everything you can imagine and even beyond.

Fantastic and extremely recommendable. Brutal acting of Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak and Laurence Tierney. Excellent direction of Robert Wise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Born to Chill, April 6, 2003
By 
Carolyn Paetow (Proctorville, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Born to Kill [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Nobody plays a sexually hot, emotionally cold sociopath like Lawrence Tierney does! In this tale of relentless lust and remorseless overdrive, he finds prey and then partner in the hard, icy, and elegant Claire Trevor. Whirlwind-like, he ruffles all who fall across his path, drawing some into the very vortex of his barren, conscienceless evil. Comrade-in-crime Elisha Cook Jr., in striving to temper Tierney's tempestuous rage, finds himself partner and then prey, and blowsy, balmy landlady Esther Howard is swept into the tracks of both predators. A field day for film noir fans and a to-die-for must for Tierney and Cook mavens!
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Born to Kill
Born to Kill by Robert Wise (DVD - 2005)
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