Review: Kiss of Death

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As you can see, when this film came out it was the big introduction of Coleen Gray. This was Gray’s first film credit(she appeared in three other films in tiny roles and did not get a credit), but if you ask any film noir buff “Who’s first movie is Kiss of Death?” Coleen Gray would not be most people’s answer. More on this later.

This film is from director Henry Hathaway and was released in 1947. It stars Victor Mature as ex-convict, Nick Bianco. This film opens with a tense jewelry heist, where Nick is shot in the leg and caught. His 3 partners get away. Nick will not rat on his partners and takes the full rap for the heist. When Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo, played by Brian Donlevy, offers him a deal so he can be with his wife and two daughters, Nick does not take it.

While in a holding cell, he meets Tommy Udo. Udo is played by Richard Widmark and he steals the show. Udo is a violent, evil man that feels he can get away with anything. Udo is a laughing psycho that can not be soon forgotten. Yes, he will remind you of Batman’s Joker in more then a few ways. Joker is not based on Udo and was actually created several years before Kiss of Death, maybe Widmark was influenced by the Joker?

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When Nick’s wife commits suicide and his daughters are put in a home, Nick decides he needs to rat out his partners and get out of prison, so he can take care of his kids. Nick turns to Nettie, played by Colleen Gray for romance and to put his family back together. Yes Widmark deserves all the accolades he receives for this film, but let us not forget how good Gray is in this. Gray is one of my favorite anti-femme fatales of the the classic era. She always played the good girl or the girl that saves the hero, and she did it well.

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Nick is released from prison, but must become an informant for the D.A.. He has no problem doing this, putting his family first and tries to put his criminal past behind him. Unfortunately Nick’s target is Udo and he is in a bad position with little to no way out.

This film is very dark, with one of the most violent scenes in all of film history when Udo tosses a wheel chair bound woman down a flight of stairs.

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This film could have been way darker if the censors didn’t get involved. Patricia Morison played Nick’s wife, but all of her scenes are cut from the final film. As we know Nick’s wife commits suicide early in the film. What we do not see is Morison’s character is actually raped first and then commits suicide. Both of these scenes are cut by the censors. Also the end of the film was much darker in the original story. I will not give anymore information on this, but after you see the film, you can see how easy the end could have been much darker.

This film is a must see for all film noir fans. It is a dark tale that you need to see to appreciate.

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Favorite Tidbit: This film has been remade twice: 1st as a western called The Fiend Who Walked the West in 1958 and then as a neo noir in 1995 starring David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage. I have seen the 1995 version, but it has been so long ago I can not compare the two films. This might make for an interesting double feature some day soon.

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News: Noir Classic ‘Kansas City Confidential’ is Coming to Blu-ray

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Kansas City Confidential is coming to bu-ray! Read the full article here:

Noir Classic ‘Kansas City Confidential’ is Coming to Blu-ray

Here is Everythingnoir.com’s review of the film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/08/21/review-kansas-city-confidential/

Review: Kansas City Confidential

Kansas City Confidential is a classic film noir from 1952, directed by Phil Karlson. I watched this recently because of the recent passing of Coleen Gray. I loved Gray in Nightmare Alley which I reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/07/02/review-nightmare-alley/

I really look forward to watching more films with her in it. She was one of the great actress from the classic film noir era. If you have not watched any films with her in it, I highly recommended you do.

This story starts out with Preston Foster casing a bank. He is timing when a delivery man is stopping at a floral shop and when an armored car is picking up cash at the bank next door. When he seems to have the perfect crime planned out he starts to recruit his team. His team consists of three of the best actors to play thugs in the classic film noir era. The three criminals are played by Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The key to this heist is all four men wear a mask all the time!

The masks not only hide their I.D. from witnesses and the police, but also from each other. This way if somebody is busted they can not rat out the other three. So the robbery goes down, as our driver of the florist truck leaves, the crooks pull up in an exact replica and rob the armored car. When the A.P.B. goes out for the getaway vehicle our innocent driver is soon pulled over. The driver is played by our headlining star for this film,John Payne. The police take Payne in, thinking he has to be involved in the armed robbery in some way. He has been in prison for a year and just recently got out, so it doesn’t look good for him. As our four thieves get away clean and disappear to 4 different locations, with plans to meet at an unknown location later to split the money. When the police let Payne go, he starts his on investigation to find out who framed him. We don’t stay in Kansas City very long for this one as we travel to a few foreign locations.

This plot is a very well crafted story and you don’t know where it is going until the very end. The plot is very complicated, but very easy to follow. Though I watched this for Gray’s involvement, and she is great in her role as the innocent traveler who falls for Payne, the five male leads of this film stole the show. This is a must see for classic film noir fans and film buffs in general.

Article: The Last of the Film Noir Women

Here is a very nice article about Coleen Gray over at Legacy.com Written by Linnea Crowther. It has a great time line of Gray’s film noir career and a quick look at her influence on noir films. Worth checking out for all Gray fans or those wanting to learn a little more about the late actress. Enjoy!

http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/the-last-of-the-film-noir-women/3452/

Review: Nightmare Alley

Tyrone Power wanted this book made into a movie and he wanted to star in it. This is Nightmare Alley and though it was not a huge success on its release in 1947, it is one of Power’s best performances and has become one of his most memorable. This film is based on a book by William Lindsay Gresham and directed by Edmund Goulding. Power stars as our main character Stan Carlisle.

This film is not your normal noir, it doesn’t take place in the dark streets of some big city at first, it takes place in the country at a carnival. The film starts with Power walking through a side-show tent, and is fascinated by the geek. A geek at this time frame in the carnival is somebody that bites the heads off of chickens. He then goes into the next tent where he changes into his carnival suit and starts working with the mind reading mystic. Our mystic is actually a team played by Joan Blondell as Zeena and Ian Keith as Pete. Pete is an alcoholic and a shadow of the man he used to be. The team used to be a big draw with a system of using Pete in the crowd telling Zeena in a code how to “read the minds” of the audience. We soon meet some of the others in the carnival like Mike Mazurki as the strong man and Coleen Gray as the beautiful assistant, Molly.

Soon Pete has an accident involving Stan and some bad alcohol, and he passes in his sleep. Stan sees his chance and talks Zeena into teaching him the code. Molly helps Stan learn the code and soon Stan and Zeena are doing the old show and drawing big crowds. A romance starts between Molly and Stan and the rest of the carnival talent soon finds out. They force Stan to marry Molly and they both leave the carnival. Stan and Molly start using the code and become a big hit in the city. Stan soon meets a psychologist, played by Helen Walker, and hatches a new con to take advantage of the cities rich.

This story is a very good noir as well as a psychological thriller. The film is something to be seeing by all noir fans or classic movie lovers. I have not seen a lot of movies with Power in them, but he is quite good in this film. I also really liked Gray in this, she is the opposite of a femme fatale in this film for sure. Walker is the femme fatale in this picture, and though she doesn’t have a lot of screen time, she definitely leaves her mark on this film. I also found ex-pro wrestler Mike Mazurki’s presence as the strong man fascinating. Find this film and watch it if you have not seen it yet!

Favorite Tidbit: According to Eddie Muller when he introduced this film on TCM, grifters using the mystic con would use the phrase “Are you a friend of Stan Carlisle?” to identify each other.