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 CenturyFox's series of postWWII 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
A wonderful picture, great cast, love to watch this movie over and over.Published 13 months ago by M. A. Dean
It was a nice December day in Dark City (in this movie, Dark City takes the name of New York City). "Christmas is a happy time - for the lucky ones," we are informed via... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2004 by Alice Rhys
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. Read morePublished on April 1 2000 by James L.
Henry Hathaway,s fine drama with something extra. Real New York locations are seen in this film..... Read morePublished on March 18 2000 by charles pope
This great piece of cinema has lost none of its punch in more than 50 years. Even more starkly photographed than most "film noir. Read morePublished on March 15 2000 by Lee J. Stamm
Most review the movie about the same Wheelchair cruel etc.You can't help but love him in the part and will not forget him. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 1999
Classic dress, classic dialogue, class actors! You can't go wrong if you want classic suspense! KISS OF DEATH is a great piece for Vic Mature & anyone who loves his look... Read morePublished on Sept. 10 1999
Henry Hathaways film still packs a punch. Widmark,s debut as Tommy Udo, Matures turn as Nick Bianco, look for Taylor Holmes as a crooked lawyer, Brain Donlevy as the Asst. D.A. Read morePublished on Aug. 19 1999