Kiss of Death

“Kiss of Death” (1947),is a crime drama and referred to as “a film noir” by some critics, although it is missing a key element – while its story and staging resemble many of the B-class movies in this category, the protagonist does not die in the final scene.  The move stars Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray and, introduces Richard Widmark (his first on screen role). Available from Prime Video, we came upon this film because of our reading the Palace Movie Mystery book series. The plot is typical noir crime drama:  Nick Bianco (Mature) is captured at the scene of jewelry store robbery.  In exchange for information about those involved (who got away), Nick is offered a deal/reduced sentence by the Assistant DA Louis D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) which he turns down and, after trial, he is sentenced to 20 years in prison. In prison, he meets and becomes pals with Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark).  Three years into his sentence, his wife stops writing and he ultimately finds out she committed suicide because of money problems (also, he learns she was raped by one of his crime partners, Rizzo, who has gotten away scott-free).  Nick writes to the DA to say he has reconsidered and is now willing to help him; however, because time has passed, he cannot use the information about the robbery to reduce his sentence.  He does, however, ask Nick if he will help by informing on Udo, to which Nick agrees.  Ultimately, a case is made against Udo, he is tried, but found not guilty and now Nick, his second wife, Nettie (Coleen Gray) and two daughters are in the Udo’s gun sights.  Nick decides that the only way to deal with the situation is to send his family away (upstate NY) and confront Udo which, of course, leads to a gun-battle – you have to see the film to see how this (and Nick’s family situation) is resolved.  There are three reasons, we believe, to see this 98 minute black and while film:  1) it’s shot on location in Manhattan; noir films were typically shot on “the backlot”; 2) Richard Widmark, as a psychopath with a high pitched laugh, does a great job in his role – he was nominated for an Oscar; and, 3) Nick’s two small daughters, notwithstanding the circumstance of the film, are thoroughly adorable and scene stealers in those in which they appear.  We give it a Good for an Afternoon rating.

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