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 ... more »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.« less
Lee J. Stamm | Kennewick, WA United States | 03/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Tommy Udo
Lee J. Stamm | 05/20/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
What A Film Debut!
James L. | 04/01/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Nick Bianco- True Noir Protagonist
Vincent Tesi | Brick, New Jersey | 06/09/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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. automatic, why did Hathaway allow Bianco to survive? Hathaway succumbed to the false noble notion that squealers will enjoy long idyllic lives. Not so- has anyone checked on Sammy the Bull, Joe Valachi, or Henry Hill lately?"
An Excellent Crime Drama With A Conflicted Victor Mature And
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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. doesn't hesitate to put the screws to Bianco, but he also recognizes that Bianco is not just another two-bit player. Hathaway, Hecht and Lederer are careful never to let this story slide into melodrama.
The duel between Nick Bianco and Tommy Udo, which is what the last half of the movie is about, features a scary, intense, unpredictable performance by Widmark. Widmark has a giggle like a hyaena's, a grin full of teeth and a face like a skull with skin. Victor Mature, however, gives us such a solid portrayal of a man trying to go straight, conflicted by his betrayal of the code of silence, decent and unsure of himself, that it should put to rest the idea that Mature was just a hunk of beefcake with little talent. Mature himself would laugh and say the same thing about his career. Yet with the right role and a good director, Mature was capable of turning in memorable performances. This is one. Or his sick, conflicted Doc Holiday in My Darling Clementine. Or his easy going promoter-turned-sleuth, with Betty Grable, in I Wake Up Screaming. Even with exotic schlock like Demetrius and the Gladiator, The Shanghai Gesture or The Egyptian, Mature always turned in an honest job for his paycheck. That's a pretty good epitaph for an actor or for anyone else.
The movie also features a number of actors who do excellent jobs, including Coleen Gray who loves and marries Bianco, Millard Mitchell and Karl Malden as two associates of Donlevy, and Taylor Holmes as Bianco's crook of a lawyer. Holmes is one of those great character actors whose face we'll recognize without knowing the name. As Earl Howser, he's as avuncular as your grandaddy and as trustworthy as a snake. Watch how he takes off his hat when he first visits Bianco in jail. He lifts the hat an inch straight up and then off. It just takes a second. Here's a lawyer who cares more about not mussing his hair than about his client.
The DVD looks very good considering the age of the movie. There is a commentary I didn't bother with featuring James Ursini and Alain Silver."