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Kiss of Death (Fox Film Noir)

87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Henry Hathaway's directorial skills brought a heightened sense of realism to crime dramas in this classic 1947 original that marked Richard Widmark's Oscar -nominated debut. When a small time crook (Victor Mature) gets a twenty year sentence for robbery, he refuses to reveal his accomplices, even after a D.A. (Brian Donlevy) offers to help him. But he changes his mind once he learns that his wife has committed suicide and a psychopath (Widmark) has threatened his children.

Richard Widmark's bravura debut as snickering gangster Tommy Udo, and particularly his infamous encounter with an old woman in a wheelchair, enjoys such pop cachet that the movie itself has been somewhat underrated. More's the pity. Henry Hathaway's third entry in 20th Century–Fox's series of post–WWII thrillers is just about the best of the bunch. These films incorporated the semidocumentary techniques and wondrously persuasive on-location shooting Hollywood learned from Italian neorealism and the wartime filming of some of its own best directors. Kiss of Death is more fictional than documentary in thrust, with a solid script by ace screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer. But that only makes its imaginative, atmospheric use of real places and spaces--e.g., a superb opening robbery sequence in a New York skyscraper--the more remarkable.

Victor Mature belies his rep as one of the Hollywood star system's bad jokes with his intense performance as Nick Bianco, a career criminal driven to turn squealer. Nick's motivation is family values: although he had gone to Sing Sing (yes, they filmed there, too) as a stand-up guy, "the boys" failed to take care of his wife and daughters as promised, with devastating results. Despite the best efforts of an assistant D.A. (Brian Donlevy), Nick is forced to lay everything on the line to rescue his family's future. The movie abounds in evocative texture, thanks to the no-frills excellence of Norbert Brodine's camerawork and an exemplary supporting cast including Millard Mitchell (as a sardonic police detective), Karl Malden (another D.A.), and Taylor Holmes (a flannel-mouthed Mob shyster). Kiss of Death was remade twice, as a Western titled The Fiend That Walked the West and as a straight thriller again in the '90s. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Commentary by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, Richard Widmark, Taylor Holmes
  • Directors: Henry Hathaway
  • Writers: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, Eleazar Lipsky, Philip Dunne
  • Producers: Fred Kohlmar
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B83846
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,611 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Kiss of Death (Fox Film Noir)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Richard Widmark started his film career with a bang and a giggle in Kiss of Death. As the psychopathic Tommy Udo who ties an old woman to her wheelchair and then pushes her down a flight of stairs, giggling merrily while he does, Widmark created such an impression it's a wonder he was able to move beyond creeps and become a star leading man. He dominates the scenes he's in, except, surprisingly, the scenes he shares with the star of the movie, Victor Mature. Kiss of Death is Mature's movie all the way.

Mature plays Nick Bianco, a small-time crook and an ex-con who squeals his way out of prison, partly to get back at the gang members who took advantage of his wife and caused her to commit suicide and partly to take care of his two little girls who now are in an orphanage. He cut the deal with Assistant District Attorney Louie DeAngelo (Brian Donlevy), remarries and starts a new life under a different name. But then he's forced to testify against Udo in open court. Udo, however, is acquitted. It's only a matter of time, Nick and DeAngelo know, before Udo comes after Nick, his new wife and his kids. Nick does the only thing he knows how to do. He sets Udo up so that DeAngelo can arrest Udo and put him away for life. The climax of the movie is suspenseful and violent.

This movie works on a lot of levels. The director, Henry Hathaway, and the screenwriters, Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, take their time letting us get to know Nick. Bianco may be a small-time crook, but he's got decent instincts. He's not the brightest guy around, but he'll do what he can to provide for and protect his family. Given half a chance, he wants to go straight. He's torn by the need to be a stoolie. Donlevy as the assistant D.A.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Lee J. Stamm on March 15, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This great piece of cinema has lost none of its punch in more than 50 years. Even more starkly photographed than most "film noir." Makes you realize, if you don't already, that filmmakers and actors knew what they were doing back then, frequently producing results far superior to most of their modern counterparts.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
The Sylvester Stallone of his time, Victor Mature was regarded as little more than a joke until his fine performance in the crime drama "Kiss of Death." Unfortunately for Mature, a New York stage actor was making his film debut in the Henry Hathaway directed thriller, and "Kiss of Death" remains famous for having introduced Richard Widmark to film audiences. As the giggling, psychopathic Tommy Udo (is there a true film buff anywhere in the world unfamiliar with that name?), Widmark would create a character much imitated in the years that followed, though still not surpassed for cruelty. It is in this film that Widmark pushes an old lady tied into her wheelchair down a flight of stairs, maniacally cackling as she makes her way to the bottom. The scene is still quite chilling, and there isn't a moment nearly as memorable in the adequate 1995 remake with Nicolas Cage and David Caruso taking over for Widmark and Mature. The rest of this original "Kiss of Death" holds up pretty well, too.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Tesi on June 8, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Henry Hathaway's 1947 noir drama Kiss of Death is one of the first films to deal with the subject of criminal informing. An informer, commonly referred among criminals as a squealer, stoolie, rat, or pigeon is often trapped in an earthy purgatory. Shunned by the underworld and suspectly viewed by law enforcement, an informer's life becomes shrouded in self doubt concerning the principles of right and wrong. In Kiss of Death, Nick Bianco's ( Victor Mature) decision to turn informer against a demented, murdering gangster named Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) is justified by his duty as a father to provide security for his two young daughters. When Nick Bianco's testimony fails to convict Udo, Bianco's safe environment becomes disrupted and threatened by the violence that was once part of his criminal past. Widmark making his screen debut as the cackling Udo is memorable with shaven eyebrows,intimidating drawl, and dark gangster suits. Mature's performance is first rate as the ex-hood who showers his new wife (Coleen Gray ) and children with the bliss of blue collar euphoria. Hathaway's New York filming locations add to the realism of Bianco's plight. Legendary Sing Sing prison in Ossining, "The Tombs" prison cells in NYC, St. Nicholas Boxing Arena in the Bronx, and the gray streets of Greenpoint Brooklyn provide ample imagery to the noir motif. Hathaway deftly and subtlely escorts Udo and Bianco into a private bordello. Most viewers are not aware that the double entry doors manned by the tall, dark figure is a whorehouse. ( Bianco- "What's that smell?" Udo- "Perfume"-camera fades out). The one major flaw is Coleen Gray's fairy tale voice over ending. After being shot at close range, four times with a 45.Read more ›
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By James L. on April 1, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Kiss of Death is a crime thriller that kept me more involved then I was expecting. Perhaps it's the fact that the Victor Mature character is pretty sympathetic. Mature (a better actor than he was given credit for) plays the internal conflicts of his character with a lot of conviction. The location filming and the straightforward direction help to add a lot of realism to the film. The supporting cast, with the exception of Colleen Gray, contribute good performances. But it's Richard Widmark, in his film debut, that leaves the strongest impression. His giggling, psychopathic killer Tommy Udo is one of the most memorable characters you'll ever see, and the wheelchair scene is justifiably famous. Kiss of Death is a gripping crime drama.
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