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A Kiss Before Dying


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Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Wagner
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Fox Video (Canada) Limited
  • Release Date: April 1 2003
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006L92X
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,840 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Robert Wagner gambled with his clean-cut image to play the ruthless, conniving killer in this unrelenting thriller co-starring Jeffrey Hunter, Virginia Leith, Joanne Woodward and Mary Astor. Based onthe novel by suspense master Ira Levin ( Deathtrap ), A Kiss Before Dying is riveting, sure-fire entertainment you can't miss! Wagner is Bud Corliss, a darkly handsome college boy so obsessedwith wealth that he'll do anything to get it. When his rich girlfriend Dorothy (Woodward) gets pregnant and is threatened with disinheritance, Bud stages her suicide, sending her plummeting from the roof of a high-rise. It's the perfect crime until Dorothy's sister Ellen (Leith) begins to unravel Bud's deadly scheme.

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Customer Reviews

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By J. A. T. on Jan. 20 2003
Format: DVD
I think nobody reviewed the dvd edition yet, so I'll start saying that the anamorphic widescreen transfer is fine, colours are not drab and sharpness is very good. I did not check the full-screen side of the disc.
I'm not sure the movie itself comes out so well but it sure is fun. Jeffrey Hunter playing some kind of part-time detective college professor, glasses and all, is something to be seen. And legendary Mary Astor is always a delight, she only appears in a couple of scenes though. Couldn't this mother/son relationship be a prelude to the one in "Psycho"? And what about killing the leading lady halfway the movie and having her sister investigate her death?
Well, plot holes, stilted directing, goofs (the clouds and the light in the important rooftop scene, obviously shot in different days or perhaps different times of the same day) and all, this is really fun to see (and Robert Wagner is so thin).
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SCOTTHANK on Nov. 27 2003
Format: DVD
Great fun! I enjoyed so much to see Bob Wagner so young and scary. Jeff Hunter's part is so small(sorry!). After all other comments I just want to inform future buyers that the DVD has both versions of the movie (standard and widescreen)something to consider when you still don't have a Widescreen TV but is planning to buy one soon. I had to import a copy once it's not available in my country. Worth every cent. Buy it!
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14 2003
Format: DVD
The India based Bollywood Movie "Baazigar" is a remake of this movie...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 43 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Each kiss a prelude to....DEATH! Jan. 11 2005
By cookieman108 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I always thought Robert Wagner deserved a better film career than he got, as he's an excellent actor and did a number of movies, including All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960), and The Longest Day (1962), before transitioning to television in the late 60's working on shows like It Takes A Thief and his signature role as Jonathan Hart of the Hart to Hart series. Remember, back in the day it was looked as a major step down to go from films to television, a similar, contemporary comparison being that of working in theatrical releases and then finding yourself in direct to video market hell (Lou Diamond Phillips) or voice-overs for video games (Ray Liotta). Work is work, I suppose, and A Kiss Before Dying (1956) is certainly one of Wagner's finer film roles, in my opinion.

Based on a novel by Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives), A Kiss Before Dying was directed by Gerd Oswald, one of the more prominent directors in the early days of television, working on such shows as Rawhide, Bonanza, The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, and Star Trek, to name a few. The film stars, as I mentioned before, a very young Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, her next being The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon), Jeffrey Hunter (The Searchers), George Macready (The Big Clock), and Virginia Leith, who saw her career bottom out six years later in the seminal sci-fi schlocker The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962). Also appearing is Robert Quarry, who would later achieve a cult-like following for his starring role in Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its' follow up, The Return of Count Yorga (1971).

The film opens on a young couple in a small room, the woman weeping softly on the bed, and the man looking as if to console her. The woman's name is Dorothy Kingship (Woodward), and the man is Bud Corliss (Wagner). As the scene presented itself, I took a wild stab in my mind as to what was going on, and I was right...the girl has learned she's pregnant, and now she's broken the news to her boyfriend. Bud seems to offer his reassurances that he'll do right by her, and she accepts them, but to the viewer his words (and actions) seemed to be tinged by a sinister quality, one someone who is blinded by love may not notice. We later find out Dorothy comes from money, and her father (Macready), a stern man, would look poorly on her condition, cutting off any financial support. We later learn Bud's not so much in love with Dorothy, but the wealth her family could provide, and now that the milk from his potential cash cow has soured, due to Dorothy's condition, he must find a way to extricate himself from this situation (can you say murder?), and does so, with a great deal of meticulous, planning. Soon Dorothy's sister, Ellen, who's not convinced the evidence around her sister's death is as clear cut as the police would believe (they thought it suicide), looks into the matter herself, uncovering the well hidden tracks of a cold, ruthless killer, one who's aware of her every move, and won't let anything stand between him and what he believes is rightfully his...

I really enjoyed this film...the contrast between Robert Wagner's boyish, all-American good looks and his characters' cold, relentless malevolent drive in achieving his goals was really creepy. He was smart, charming, always seemed to know the right thing to say, and incredibly focused on the details, wary of leaving anything that might lead back to himself. His willingness to do whatever he has to in maintaining his deception is beyond what many could even begin to fathom, even managing to keep his own mother in the dark (which is no easy task, for any of you out there with a mother should be able to attest). Rarely have I seen such an ugly, rotten-to-the-core being hidden by such a handsome and absorbing façade, except maybe in the Omen films (especially the last one with Sam Neill). Everyone else did reasonably well, although I felt casting Macready as the father seemed a bit too obvious, and Hunter's character, as the tutor/junior police investigator, seemed more of a plot contrivance rather than a character. Oswald does a wonderful job directing, and while the story is slow moving at first, it worked well to allow us to really study Wagner's character, the depths of his roguish villainy, and also to set up Woodward's character for a spectacularly shocking demise (don't watch the trailer prior to watching the film, as it will spoil this). Ahhh, but even the most meticulous of plans can come unraveled, especially those based on deception, and soon Bud finds certain loose threads may be his undoing. The ending was theatrically sensational, although I've read that some felt it was a little too over-the-top, ill-befitting the subtle nature of the story, but I thought it was aptly appropriate given the diabolical nature of Wagner's character. One thing that kind of puzzled me is based on Wagner's character's nature for meticulousness, I thought it strange that he should flub his initial, carefully crafted efforts by getting Dorothy pregnant. I know sex ed wasn't focused on as much in the 50's as it may be now, but seeing as how Bud's cousin worked in a pharmacy, I would have thought obtaining prophylactics wouldn't have been that big of a deal...oh well...

The widescreen picture on this DVD looks very good, although there was a strange event during a few of the outside shots resulting in a weird, yet brief `shimmer' effect (you'll know it when you see it). I thought the audio decent, but a little too soft for my tastes, as I had to turn up the volume. The only special feature available is an annoying, talky trailer (avoid before watching the film).

Cookieman108
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Classic thriller from Gerd Oswald! Jan. 29 2001
By Lee Hartsfeld - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
"A Kiss Before Dying" is an outstanding thriller with Hitchcock-level suspense courtesy of Gerd Oswald, a director much better known for his TV work on "The Outer Limits" and "Star Trek." Robert Wagner is excellent as a sociopathic killer who carries out the perfect crime but is done in by his own ambition and cleverness. The whole thing could have become ridiculous very easily, owing to certain gaps in story logic, but the dead-serious tone, the fast pacing and editing, and the high artistry of all involved make this a classic, if unusually elegant, piece of film noir.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Psychopath Entwined With Two Sisters in Effective Thriller March 13 2005
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
This movie is a vivid reminder of the type of Baroque psychodrama/thriller Hollywood produced with great relish in the 1950's, and now it has been released on DVD. At the forefront back then was German-born filmmaker Douglas Sirk, whose turgid Technicolor melodramas ("Magnificent Obsession", "Imitation of Life" among others) served as inspiration for Todd Haynes' recent critical hit, "Far From Heaven", with Julianne Moore. Another contributor to this genre was director Gerd Oswald, who filmed an early Ira Levin book (his later works include "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives") in 1956 and manages to capture all the lurid elements and Freudian pop sensibilities that make this good fun to watch.

A very young and dapper Robert Wagner plays a very cool and collected psychopath named Budd Corliss, who impregnates his naive girlfriend, Dorothy, played by an ingenuous Joanne Woodward in only her second film. That accident virtually guarantees her disinheritance from her wealthy, taciturn father, and so Budd spends the first half of the story plotting her murder ensuring her death will look like a suicide. The story telegraphs the inevitable event for quite a while, and the scenes that lead to it are tensely effective culminating in a camera-savvy push from a rooftop that is visually stunning. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (and predating that classic by four years), the story shifts perspective to her sister Ellen and a detective who try to put the pieces together to figure out who murdered Dorothy. The twists in this part of the film include a tennis pro who is too helpful to Ellen for his own good, and Ellen herself, ignorant of Budd's previous relationship with Dorothy, begins an affair with Budd. Contrived? You bet. But the story is filled with such tension and twists that it is difficult to pull away once you get hooked.

Wagner has never been the most resourceful of actors, but he nails this part with his impassive detachment, an interesting precursor to Matt Damon's Tom Ripley. Woodward makes an impression, but she is really only called upon to play a smitten coed you know will not survive. A rather wooden contract player named Virginia Leith plays Ellen in a manner that reminded me of Cary Grant's honey-voiced actress wife, Betsy Drake. Jeffrey Hunter seems rather confused playing the detective, and Mary Astor is sadly given very little to do as Budd's subtly grasping mother (I wish they fleshed this aspect out more to explain Budd's psychosis). Of course, it all ends precariously on the ledge of a limestone mine, as Ellen fights off Budd to save her own life. Avoid the 1991 remake with Matt Dillon and Sean Young unbelievably playing both sisters, as this is the one that will provide you with silly melodramatic fun.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Worth watching July 6 2011
By kacunnin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
`A Kiss Before Dying' (1956) is a passable adaptation of Ira Levin's novel (his first, coming years before `Rosemary's Baby' and `Stepford Wives'). The story involves callous gold-digger Bud Corliss (Robert Wagner) who makes the unfortunate mistake of knocking up his heiress girlfriend Dorie Kingship (Joanne Woodward, in her first credited role) before he can meet her father and solidify his piece of the family fortune. Bud's plans for Dorie reveal him as more than a little bit sociopathic, but ultimately his inability to get the Kingship money out of his mind proves his undoing.

The first half of the film is better than its concluding scenes - both Wagner and Woodward are fine as would-be college sweethearts, and the initial murder scene is both creepy and believable. Later scenes and characters are not - including Virginia Leith (who seems oddly stiff and detached as Dorie's sister Ellen), Jeffrey Hunter (who's unconvincing as part-time police investigator Gordon Grant), George Macready (who plays patriarch Leo Kingship as a one-dimensional autocrat), and a ridiculous mid-film murder (with the victim literally sitting at his desk, begging pitifully, while the murderer debates which side of his head would be best for the bullet). The film was billed as a "noir" murder mystery, but its bright color pallet and zippy score make it seem too upbeat for that genre.

For those who have read the novel, this adaptation cuts out the third Kingship sister, which is a shame (since that also means we miss one of the novel's more interesting murders, as well as its final twist). More of a problem, however, is the lack of the background information on Bud Corliss provided in the novel - including his childhood, relationship with his mother, and his growing obsession with Kingship Copper. Wagner's Bud is a pretty-boy without a heart, but also without clear motivation for his actions. The novel's twist (coming at about the half-way point in the story) translates fairly well to the screen, however - especially since Robert Wagner was not a big star at the time the film was made (you'll know what I mean once you've seen the film!).

It's worth a viewing . . . and it's MUCH better than the dreadful 1991 remake (with Matt Dillon and world's-worst-actress Sean Young).
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
First Half is Brilliant Dec 1 2007
By Douglas Doepke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: VHS Tape
He may not have been James Dean, but Robert Wagner delivers a career performance in this sorely neglected sleeper from 1956. The first half is a beautifully shaded dance of death as Wagner plots to rid himself of the inconveniently pregnant Joanne Woodward. He's all sincere insincerity from one rendevous to the next, while she wants desperately to believe, even against all odds. Has there ever been a more cold-hearted manipulator of vulnerable feminine desires. Dory (Woodward) is all whiney expectations, while Wagner conceals ruthless ambition behind a pretty boy mask.

Director Gerd Oswald's staging of the first half is little short of brilliant, and had the filming been in appropriate black and white, a latter day noir classic would have resulted. Notice how subtly Woodward expects a kiss atop the municipal building, the pinnacle of her girlish dreams, while Bud (Wagner) callously lights a cigarette, oblivious to her romantic longing. And what a gripping piece of morbid pathology is Wagner's slip-sliding through the chemistry lab as he prepares a toxic potion for his lady love. Maybe in the last analysis, Bud's problem lies with mother. The fixation is certainly not normal, as she senses in putting off his request for a "date". Yet as Bud's social climbing becomes tellingly clear, the ambitious plans are for mom too. The subtext here is a risky one for 50's popular entertainment.

Unfortunately, the second half reverts to standard Hollywood convention, the suspense subsiding along with the first-rate mood music. Putting a pipe in the callow Jeffrey Hunter's mouth and making him a college professor amounts to a crippling micalculation on someone's part. Hunter's simply not the type, nor does he have the gravitas to carry the plot forward. Note the monster truck bearing down. That's the hand of predestination Bud should have noted in that literature class. There is a point to Dory's unfortunate life, after all. The end result is a hybrid of first-half brilliance and second-half mediocrity. Too bad.

Worth the purchase, nonetheless.


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