Friday, August 09, 2013

So Long, Mildred

I recently rewatched Kiss Of Death (1947).  With direction by Henry Hathaway and script by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, it's often placed on lists of top films noir. I don't know if I'd call it top tier, but it still holds up.

It's unusual for its day in that there's a lot of location shooting based on the actual places mentioned in the story (though that was a growing trend in the post-war era).  It's also unusual in that the leading man, Victor Mature, plays a stool pigeon.  Even back in the Production Code days it was hard to make a hero of a stoolie.

The other leads are Brian Donlevy as the DA and Coleen Gray as Mature's girlfriend/wife.  But no one remembers them.  It's newcomer Richard Widmark who steals the show as the psychopathic hood with the high-pitched giggle, Tommy Udo.

To this day the performance is creepy.  And there's one moment that defines a new brutality.  Frank Capra says he saw it and felt he was no longer part of Hollywood.  To this day it's still hard to take.  There was a remake in 1995 starring David Caruso, Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson. I don't remember a single thing about it. But this I remember:


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