A hard-hitting, often frightening crime drama from the Hecht-Lederer typewriter, KISS OF DEATH has a grimly realistic look and feel, mostly because expert helmsman Hathaway insisted upon shooting the whole film in New York. The movie pulls no punches as it represents life on the seamy
side of the street. It also introduced an electric personality to the screen, Richard Widmark, in an unforgettable role. Narrating the film is Nettie (Gray), second wife of Nick Bianco (Mature). Recounting his tough life, she tells how he is the one member of a gang who was caught robbing a
jewelry store at Christmastime. The gang's crooked lawyer (Holmes) lies to him assuring him that his family will be looked after. In prison, Nick learns that his first wife has committed suicide out of poverty and that his two little girls have been placed in an orphanage. In a rage, he makes a
deal with district attorney D'Angelo (Donlevy): in exchange for his parole, he will inform on his old gang. D'Angelo particularly wants to send sadistic gang boss Tommy Udo (Widmark) to prison. Nick ingratiates himself with the perverted murderer, listening to his big talk and going with him to
bars and bordellos. Meanwhile, Nick falls for and marries Nettie, moving his family into a new home. When Nick's cover is blown and D'Angelo forces him to testify against Tommy, Nick becomes a marked man. Unable to stand waiting, Nick decides to push Udo to the point of murder.
Hathaway's New York locations give KISS OF DEATH a style reminiscent of other crime films employing a documentary-like approach, including CALL NORTHSIDE 777 and THE NAKED CITY. Mature is exceptional as the reluctant squealer, Gray appealingly low-key as his wife, and Donlevy solid as the
crusading attorney. Widmark, however, with his maniacal eyes, falsetto baby talk, and hyena-like laughter, really captured the public's imagination with his riveting performance. KISS OF DEATH features the famous scene where Udo murders a wheelchair-bound old woman by pushing her down a flight of
stairs. An overnight sensation, Widmark was signed to a long-term contract by Fox. The Hecht-Lederer script is taut and clever, more literate than many gangster films, with well-developed characters and a starkly believable plot line. The story was later be used for the shlock cult film THE FIEND
WHO WALKED THE WEST.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A hard-hitting, often frightening crime drama from the Hecht-Lederer typewriter, KISS OF DEATH has a grimly realistic look and feel, mostly because expert helmsman Hathaway insisted upon shooting the whole film in New York. The movie pulls no punches as it… (more)