A Kiss Before Dying

1956

Crime / Film-Noir

0
IMDb Rating 6.8

Synopsis


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1.81G
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94 min
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94 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by stryker-5 7

An evil young man resorts to murder in his efforts to get his hands on an heiress&#39;s fortune. Unluckily for him, the heiress&#39;s sister and a smart young college lecturer smell a rat ...<br/><br/>This is a sumptuous mid-50&#39;s all-American movie, set in a world of sorority houses, open-top cars and drug stores. The boys have shiny, well-oiled hair and the girls wear big skirts. Courting couples meet on the bleachers at the football field between classes.<br/><br/>Shot in cinemascope, the film&#39;s aspect ratio means that television (where I saw it) does it a disservice: all too often, dialogues are conducted between two noses at either extreme of the screen. The colour is &#39;de luxe&#39;, so the credits tell us, and indeed the look of the film is rich and bright.<br/><br/>The film is a standard thriller, based on an Ira Levin novel. It is well put together, and has a nice, slinky jazz score, including the theme song (playing on the juke box during one of Bud&#39;s dates with Dory).<br/><br/>The opening is impressive. The camera pans around a student&#39;s bedroom, neatly setting the scene for us. We hear (but do not see) a girl crying. Gradually, as the characters are revealed, we get the message - Dory has found out that she is pregnant by Bud. She has a wealthy father, but is prepared to forego comfort if the man she loves will marry her. Bud is much more interested in the family money.<br/><br/>Even though Bud is despicable, we find ourselves wanting his scheme to succeed, so cleverly are we drawn into his plan. He surreptitiously studies poisons in the university library, then by a cunning ploy gains access to the chemistry lab. He composes a note in Spanish, ostensibly a piece he needs to translate for his class, then gets Dory to write out the English for him. She doesn&#39;t realise it, but she is writing her own &#39;suicide note&#39;. Gerd Oswald&#39;s direction is strong on body language throughout the movie, and we cannot help but see the significance when Dory (played by Joanne Woodward) goes to kiss Bud, and he flinches.<br/><br/>A very young Robert Wagner portrays Bud as a slick, incredibly handsome villain with no feelings. He feigns affection for women, but is capable of none. When he cajoles his mother (Mary Astor) into choosing a tie for him, he craftily changes it for a preferred one when her back is turned.<br/><br/>The director is adept at conveying information without words. When Bud looks at the municipal building and marvels at its height, we know straight away what he is planning. When he is on the roof, the tension is sustained commendably.<br/><br/>Victoria Leith plays Ellen, Dory&#39;s sister. In another fine &#39;body language&#39; moment, we see her subtly shrugging off her father&#39;s attempt to comfort her. We gather from this that Ellen blames him for what happened to Dory.<br/><br/>The plot contains some elements which stretch our credulity. If the ending is contrived and highly improbable, at least the incremental steps by which doubt invades Ellen&#39;s awareness are cleverly done.<br/><br/>Is it a coincidence that Jeff Hunter (Gordon Grant) and Robert Wagner look so alike? Or are they meant to represent two facets of intelligence - one cold and selfish, the other beneficent and altruistic? In the scene just before the engagement party, they are even dressed identically.<br/><br/>Verdict - A cleverly-executed murder flick.

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Reviewed by princehal 7

Robert Wagner as a psychopathic killer, Jeffrey Hunter as a math teacher/cop, Joanne Woodward as a clinging dishrag, Virginia Leith as a sexy prospective victim and Mary Astor as a dowdy mom? It&#39;s so strange I began to wonder if it was some kind of demented masterpiece. It starts with perky titles promising a silly romantic comedy, then has a long dialogue scene between Bob and Joanne all in one take, a tumble by a pregnant woman that *doesn&#39;t* result in a miscarriage (surely a movie first), and indescribably odd moments like a sixtyish woman in a see-through blouse sashaying through an intense dialogue scene that pauses to honor her passing, and a postal clerk whose delicate cough serves as a Pinteresque interruption to an otherwise inconsequential line. It was Gerd Oswald&#39;s first movie and as far as I can tell he never did anything of note after-wards, but he might have been an Ed Wood buried under a studio budget. It&#39;s on DVD and should be seen in its original Cinemascope glory.

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Reviewed by B24 9

True, the story line is a bit noir for a Technicolor Cinemascope production, but when one realizes that Tucson was at the time a popular and inexpensive location for John Wayne films and the musical Oklahoma! also in glorious color under the blazing Arizona sun, it begins to make sense -- at least in terms of getting out of nearby California where the visible smog at the time was far greater than it is even today.<br/><br/>I saw several of the exterior scenes of this film being made, and wondered whether the final cut would amount to much of anything. Robert Wagner seemed very young for the part, and almost frighteningly thin in stature. Moreover, his acting ability had not yet developed to the extent of that displayed by his contemporary Joanne Woodward. But it was obvious to all that the production itself and the supporting cast were professional to the core.<br/><br/>Author Ira Levin was very popular at the time, something of the sort of writer one reads today in Robin Cook, Jonathan Kellerman, Stuart Woods, etc. In other words, not really a Raymond Chandler or even a Michael Connelly. That explains why so many recent viewers seem able to catch the adumbrations in the film early on. Potboilers lack the complexity of truly great detective fiction because the characters are stock heroes and heavys.<br/><br/>The view looking down from the top of the old 12-story Valley National Bank building (portrayed in the film as the city hall), even though insignificant by today&#39;s height standards, is just as scary as it was then. Many of the other locations like the resort portrayed as a grand estate have been transformed or have simply disappeared. And those really cool &quot;rides&quot; are now languishing in automobile museums.

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