Directed by Henry Hathaway
USA 1947

 

Kiss of Death is a semi-documentary thriller, one of a cycle of documentary-based noirs, which began life not as pulp fiction but as a version of the facts, derived from the case files of Eleazar Lipsky, an aspiring novelist and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney. Ben Hecht, screenwriter of The Front Page and Scarface, and Charles Lederer, a frequent collaborator, delivered the script.

Sharing with the later On the Waterfront (1954) the theme of heroic informing, the film was a huge hit for Fox. The giggling psycho killer, the old lady in the wheelchair pushed down the stairs - this is the film wherein Richard Widmark became a star, Victor Mature became an actor, sadism came to the big screen and Hollywood neorealism got tangled in the dreamscape of noir.

Richard Widmark, then a radio actor, made his film debut, stealing every frame as the terrifying, grinning, snickering killer Tommy Udo. Udo, with his animal ferocity and vicious joie de vivre, is clearly a spiritual nephew of Scarface's Tony Camonte, but Widmark himself is to be credited with many of the inspired details of his performance.

***

Small-time crook Nick Bianco gets caught in a jewel heist and despite urgings from well-meaning district attorney D'Angelo, refuses to rat on his partners and goes to jail, assured that his wife and children will be taken care of. Learning that his depressed wife has killed herself, Nick informs on his ex-pals and is paroled. Nick remarries, gets a job and begins leading a happy life when he learns one of the men he informed on, psychopathic killer Tommy Udo, has been released from custody and is out for revenge against Nick and his family.

****

A gritty tale of deceit and manipulation filmed with an almost documentary-style realism, this hard-edged noir thriller stars Victor Mature as a gangster who takes the rap for a jewelery-store heist to protect his wife and children. But when his friends on the outside fail to honor their promise, he turns the tables on the mob and works with the FBI to incriminate the men who helped put him away. Richard Widmark debuts as the evil mobster with the manic laugh.

Gary W. Tooze

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 27th, 1947

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:38:54  1:34:51 (4% PAL speedup) 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.3 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.96 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 Fox

Bitrate:

BFI

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), DUB: Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)   English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, Spanish, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver
• Still Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: December 6th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Interview with Richard Widmark (18:27)
• Theatrical Trailer (2:14)

• 14-page liner notes booklet with photos and essay by Lee Server

DVD Release Date: October 15th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 15
 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: BFI - Region 2- PAL (October 07'): Image quality is excellent on the BFI - dare I say - an exact match of the Region 1 Fox - there are some slight differences but overall we have 6-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other in terms of the image. Audio and subs - we have no complaints - many know I personally prefer the white over the yellow subtitles but on an English language film - this is not a deal breaker for me.

What is the significant difference is in the supplements - the Widmark interview with Adrian Wootten from 2002 at the National Film Theatre (Crimescene Festival) is pretty good and I appreciate BFI adding it (and the liner notes booklet), but... the Ursini / Silver commentary is golden by comparison. Price favors the, always reasonable, Fox release, but for PAL locked audiences the BFI supports a strong recommendation. Fabulous Noir entry!   

****

On the Fox: Very good image quality from Fox - it is a little soft in spots but contrast is superb and a see a tiny amount of good film grain. It is typical of their previous Noir releases - well maybe a notch ahead. I only listened to the mono track and it was a little inconsistent with hushed dialogue and explosive interludes. I had never seen this film previously and was blown away by Vic Mature performance - it might be the best I have ever seen him. I can also see why Widmark got a reputation for his characterization- WOW! Ursini and Silver make a great commentary combination playing off each other very well and their love/obsession with the Noir genre really shows through again. This film really impacted well on me and is definitely in my list of favorite Noirs right now - this disc may even get a mention in the DVD of the Year category. Well done Fox!

Gary W. Tooze



DVD Menus

 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

NOTE: Not exact frame

 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)

 

 


(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)
 

 

 


(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM)
 

 

 


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL




 

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