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KISS OF DEATH [1947 / 2016] [Blu-ray]
on 29 January 2017
KISS OF DEATH [1947 / 2016] [Blu-ray] It Will Mark You For Life As It Did For Him . . . Betrayal!
Petty crook Nick Bianco [Victor Mature] is arrested at the scene of a robbery and takes the rap without squealing. When he learns that his accomplice has betrayed him, he decides to go against the criminal code and become and informant.
But when his testimony against homicidal psychopath Tommy Udo [Richard Widmark] puts his family in danger, Nick Bianco is forced to take matters into his own hands.
Director Henry Hathaway’s [‘Rawhide’] innovative use of New York locations brings a heightened sense of realism to this classic “film noir,” which is presented here in High Definition 1080p Black-and-White transfer accompanied by essential extra features. Narrated by Coleen Gray.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1948 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Richard Widmark. Nominated: Best Writing, Original Story for Eleazar Lipsky. Golden Globes Awards®: Win: Most Promising Newcomer for Male for Richard Widmark. 1948 Locarno International Film Festival: Win: Best Screenplay, Adapted for Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer.
Cast: Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, Mildred Dunnock, Richard Widmark, Taylor Holmes, Howard Smith, Karl Malden, Anthony Ross, Millard Mitchell, J. Scott Smart, Robert Adler (uncredited), Rollin Bauer (uncredited), Harry Bellaver (uncredited), Dennis Bohan (uncredited), Nina Borget (uncredited), Alexander Campbell (uncredited), Harry Carter (uncredited), Eva Condon (uncredited), Harry Cooke (uncredited), Harold Crane (uncredited), James Doody (uncredited), Mildred Dunnock (uncredited), Arthur Foran Jr. (uncredited), Don Giovanni (uncredited), Marilee Grassini (uncredited), James Charles J.C. Heard (uncredited), Eda Heinemann (uncredited), Lou Herbert (uncredited), Herbert Holcombe Robert Karnes (uncredited), Ronald King (uncredited), Arthur Kramer (uncredited), Harry Landers (uncredited), Perc Launders (uncredited), Paul Lilly (uncredited), Iris Mann (uncredited), John Marley (uncredited), Charles McClelland (uncredited), Norman McKay (uncredited), Millard Mitchell (uncredited), Mary Morrison (uncredited), Wendell K. Phillips (uncredited), Mel Ruick (uncredited), Lee Sanford (uncredited), Victor Thorley (uncredited), Tito Vuolo (uncredited), Milton Wallace (uncredited), Jesse White (uncredited) and Bill Zuckert (uncredited)
Director: Henry Hathaway
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Screenplay: Ben Hecht (screenplay), Charles Lederer (screenplay), Eleazar Lipsky (story) and Philip Dunne (additional scenes) (uncredited)
Composer: David Buttolph
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 98 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox / Signal One Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: With the film ‘KISS OF DEATH’  finds grinning gangster Tommy Udo was the role of a lifetime for Richard Widmark, however this is a typical of the characterisation now seems in the context of the late actor's long and distinguished career. As our film begins a narrator informs us over the opening shots of a bustling Manhattan that, “Christmas eve in New York a happy time for some people; the lucky ones. Last minute shopping, presents for the kids, hurry home to light the tree and fill the stocking . . . for the lucky ones. Others aren’t so lucky.” Here we are introduced to Nick Bianco [Victor Mature] a former jail-bird, trying to fly the straight and narrow. After a year of his prison record impeding his efforts to get a legit job, we see Nick Bianco and a few cohorts enter a jeweller’s office and rob them because, “this is how Nick Bianco goes Christmas shopping for his kids.” Nick Bianco gets caught at the end of this tense scene where he is seconds away from eluding the police who have been tipped off to the burglary. As he is about to escape their grasp, into the streets of New York, when a cop shoots him in the leg, dropping him to the ground and ensuring his Christmas will be spent at the Graybar hotel. The narrator informs us that this event mirrors the fate of Nick Bianco’s father who died twenty years earlier with a policeman’s bullet in his back. He was escaping from a robbery he just committed when young Nick Bianco witnessed his father’s death and sadly enough it was one of his earliest memories. When the violins die down Nick Bianco is looking at plenty jail time but he has a way out.
Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo [Brian Donlevy] is a family man who tells Nick Bianco that if he sings about the failed heist, he can get out of serving time in the big cage. But Nick Bianco is no canary and refuses to talk even when Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo tries to push his guilt buttons about his two young daughters growing up without their dad. The Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo believes that Nick Bianco is a good guy at heart and tries to give him a way to avoid incarceration. We see Nick Bianco’s wheels turn at the prospect and persuasion put forth by Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo, but Nick Bianco is old school and decides to do his time with his mouth shut.
Three years into doing his bit in the joint, Nick Bianco finds out that his wife has committed suicide by sticking her head in a gas oven because of financial worries and her drinking too much. Upon hearing the news Nick Bianco wants to get out and take care of his kids who have landed in an orphanage. In prison Nick Bianco gets a visit from Nettie [Coleen Gray] a young woman who used to take care of his daughters and quit and moved away. Nettie and Nick Bianco have a connection and he asks her to keep tabs on his daughters.
Beside himself with guilt and concern for his daughters, Nick Bianco decides to cut a deal with Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo and give up his crew. Unfortunately this is where Nick must cross paths again with Tommy Udo [Richard Widmark]. Tommy Udo and Nick Bianco had met before when Nick Bianco was being sentenced and they wind up in the same cell for little while. Tommy Udo expressed to Nick Bianco his surprise at being behind bars noting, “Imagine me in here. Big man like me gettin’ picked up just for shoving a guy’s ears off his head. Traffic ticket stuff.” With that statement we understand Tommy Udo’s idea of a moving violation differs drastically from yours and mine. Tommy Udo proves it later when he has to silence a potential informer and ends up lashing the stoolie’s mother to her wheelchair with an electrical cord and proceeds to push her tumbling down a flight of stairs. Cementing his dark disposition Tommy Udo gives his legendary creepy cackle at the sight of his maternal manhandling.
Under the guidance of Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo, Nick Bianco purposely bumps into and pretends to be pals with Tommy Udo to get some dirt on him for the Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo and the plan works and the D.A.’s office is taking Tommy Udo to trial for murder, Nick Bianco testifies against him and everything seems rosy. Nick Bianco and Nettie have gotten married, and Nick Bianco has a regular job and a new identity. His daughters are finally out of the orphanage, living with the newlyweds and happily improving their roller-skating skills on a daily basis. The picture can’t get any more perfect until the frame they try to hang on Tommy Udo doesn’t take and his slick shyster manages to get Tommy Udo acquitted of the charges he faced. Now Nick Bianco has the psychopath Tommy Udo gunning for him and his family. While he wants to help Nick, the assistant D.A. can only wait for Tommy to violate his parole in order to get him off the streets. That may be too little too late for Nick, Nettie and the girls with a lunatic like Udo looking for payback. Nick sends Nettie and the girls packing to the country and decides to take care of Tommy Udo himself. At this point the cat and mouse game between Nick Bianco and Tommy Udo plays out with both parolees having to tread carefully under the watchful eye of Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo.
Victor Mature is truly effective in his role as Nick Bianco as he can balance a believable hood with a genuine guy who is motivated by his kids to straighten up from his crooked ways. It could have been played very saccharine, especially in the scenes with the two sweet little girls, but Victor Mature nicely acts out the role and not the dramatic story. The result is a performance that elicits just the right mix of sympathy and compassion for his character. His wistful eyes also seal the deal when necessary too. Perfect casting and acting combined for the crucial role of our protagonist Nick Bianco.
Blu-ray Video Quality – 20th Century Fox and Signal One Entertainment have presented us with a stunning Black-and-White 1080p encoded imaged, with an equally impressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio, to give you an overall very good image, to give you a strong image. The film was shot on location in New York so the lack of controlled studio lighting, but to my mind gave the film its natural look and contrast. So overall this is a very fine transfer overall, and with more than adequate contrast levels. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 20th Century Fox and Signal One Entertainment have presented us with an equally impressive 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio, but had to slightly crank up the sound a few notches, but despite this it was still a good and excellent audio performance for a “film noir” of this calibre, especially giving you a rich and deep ambiance, with excellent range, and is clear throughout, especially for a film that was released in 1947, which is of course well over 70 years old, so well done 20th Century Fox and Signal One Entertainment for your sterling work.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
1080p Black-and-White High Definition Transfer.
Improved English SDH subtitles.
Feature-length Audio Commentary with film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver: This is the same audio commentary that was featured on the inferior DVD release from 20th Century Fox. Here we are introduced to first of all Alain Silver who informs us that he has written and edited a number of books about “film noir,” including an Encyclopaedia, he is also a Silver graduated from UCLA with degrees in film production (B.A.) and critical studies (M.A. and PhD). Then James Ursini introduces himself and who has also worked on a number of books about “film noir,” who also has worked on books on the subject of “film noir,” who has also co-edited with Alain Silver. Also James Ursini is an American writer living in Los Angeles, and an educator. He received his master's degree in Theater Arts and a Doctorate in Film in 1975 from UCLA. Alain Silver and James Ursini really know their stuff, and this audio commentary track is absolutely superb. The pair reflects on the picture’s production history and reception, discussing its relationship with other “film noir” films of that era, especially the semi documentary “film noir,” and the use of real locations during the shoot and some of the heavy Christian religious symbolism within the picture. They also reflect about the start of the film with the gun on the script, which they feel is a slightly unusual way to start of film, but also reflect it is a very powerful image of what we can expect from a film made in 1947. We also find out that Darryl F. Zanuck wanted to call the film “Blind Date,’ because he felt the main character had a blind date with destiny. They comment on some of the wording printed on one of the pages of the script at the start of the film, where is says, “All scenes in this motion picture, both exterior and interior, were photographed in the State of new York on the actual locale associated with the story.” But we find out that this is not quite true, but only about 90% of the film was true, especially the outdoor location shoots, but of course some of the interior shots were shot on the 20th Century Fox film sets. We are also informed with a very interesting fact that this is one of the few “film noir” films that was narrated by a woman, who of course was Coleen Gray, and we are also informed that where the jewel robbery takes place at the start of the film, it was actually in The Chrysler Building, which is the Art Deco-style skyscraper located on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan in New York City and both feel it gave a greater ambience to the film, especially inside the building, instead of being filmed in a studio where they would have to move scenery about and gives a much more subtle lighting. They comment extensively about the actor Victor mature and who they feel in this film alone gave his best performance since his appearance in the film ‘My Darling Clementine,’ and the critics also like his performance in this “film noir” film, and Darryl F. Zanuck really liked his performance, because he felt he looked like an Italian thug, especially feeling he resided in the American Italian community. They also talk extensively about Richard Widmark’s performance in this film and how it was his landmark debut performance, but unfortunately it haunted this actor for about six or seven years of being typed cast in gangster type roles, until eventually he broke the mould and started to appear in other roles that were so totally different characters. When we get to around the 1 hour 24 minutes where we see Victor Mature has escaped from being arrested goes out to seek revenge on Tommy Udo for the last time, next we are at LUIGI’s Sea Food and Cocktails restaurant, well find out with this significant scene is actually the backlot of 20th Century Fox and here we see Richard Widmark with his two goons turn up and where Victor mature sets up the final showdown for the demise of Tommy Udo. But at the same time we also find out that the original ending, which was actually filmed, was where they have a massive shootout on a bus on the streets of New York City and when they saw the rushes, they decided and felt it was not very realistic, because the director was seeking a much more realistic scenario and had to bring Richard Widmark back to Los Angeles from New York City to shoot this new ending and both the commentators that on the East Coast was the original location at the start of the film, and the scene in the restaurant has great tension and suspense set up, especially between Richard Widmark and Victor Mature, to the point at this moment in the film we do not know what the final outcome will be, that is why the director Henry Hathaway did a stunning brilliant job of keeping you on the edge of your set. As we get near to the final fatal shootout, the two commentators say for a 1947 film it was extremely violent, but of course very necessary for the scenario of people getting their comeuppance and the two commentators also comment on the final ending where the actress Coleen Gray [Nettie] makes her final comment on the outcome of life in general and what lies ahead for both Nick Bianco and Nettie’s lives for the coming future and that Nettie has finally got her man and that life is sweet. And so ends quite an interesting audio commentary that is full of interesting facts about the film in general and lots of anecdotes on how they feel the film was portrayed for a “film noir” and how it deserved the nominations and awards it received and overall the audio commentary is a must for all fans of black-and-white films of the genre.
Special Feature: Interview with Richard Widmark  [480i] [1.33:1] [18:25] The celebrated actor Richard Widmark discusses his acting career where the Hollywood actor was as much at home as the hero or villain in his 50-year acting career, including appearing in the “film noir” ‘KISS OF DEATH,’ and talks about the famous scene in the film and the first famous words uttered on screen by Richard Widmark, which went as follows: 'You're Nick Bianco, aren't you? You're a big man. I'm Tommy Udo. Imagine me on this cheap rap – big man like me, picked up just for shoving a guy's ears off his head. Traffic ticket stuff." Here we get a rare appearance of Richard Widmark in person in conversation on stage at the National Film Theatre in London on the South Bank and the occasion was recorded in July 2002, but only released in 2006 and was part of the Crimescene Festival and the interview was conducted by Adrian Wootton, where Richard Widmark discusses his career and especially his long and varied acting experiences in Hollywood, including the film ‘KISS OF DEATH.’ This was an edited version of the full interview, and included questions from the audience. We also find out how Richard Widmark perfected that horrible real creepy type hyena laughter. Richard Widmark also offers some anecdotes about the film ‘KISS OF DEATH’ and its production which will be familiar to many devotees of film noir. We find out that director Henry Hathaway insistence that Tommy Udo to be played by a non-actor, and his choice of a street “face” named Harry the Hipster, but which are fascinating to hear first-hand from Richard Widmark himself. Richard Widmark also talks about many of his other acting experiences in filmmaking, including his working relationship with the director John Ford. Richard Widmark also reflects on his approach to a certain style of acting. Richard Widmark, who sadly died on the 24th March, 2008 aged 93, was nominated for an Oscar for his first film, ‘KISS OF DEATH.’ Despite quite a short interview, it certainly packed in lots of information about his acting career and also hearing some very funny anecdotes with working with fellow actors he admired and especially some of the Directors he admired and also had a good working relationship with, especially Jules Dassin, James B. Harris, Stanley Kramer, John Ford, Samuel Fuller, Henry Hathaway, Donald Siegel and some he found to be hard working task masters like John Wayne and Otto Preminger. This is a definite must watch.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [2:21] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘KISS OF DEATH.’ Here we get an announcement from Walter Winchell describing this dramatic “film noir” and informing us what “Kiss of Death” means in gangster lingo, and makes this trailer a very dramatic presentation. But what is very unusual with this trailer is the way they entitle the main actors in the film, by informing us the following way: VICTOR MATURE – The man Who “Squeals;” BRIAN DONLEVY – The man Whose Friendship Is Fatal” and COLEEN GRAY – The Screen’s New Dramatic Personality.
Finally, if I had to choose one really good reason why I should recommend you watching this “film noir” film on this Blu-ray disc is definitely the screen debut of Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo and gives a performance that is outstanding, as Richard Widmark doesn’t so much give you the creeps, here he force-feeds them to you. Tommy Udo is a perfect storm of menace, sadist and a total sociopath to make you feel uncomfortable at the same time. Richard Widmark commands every scene in this brilliant “film noir” film in which Richard Widmark is such a forceful menacing presence and performance that as the film continues, you find yourself just waiting for him to appear. Richard Widmark also gets some brilliant well written classic lines such as telling a cop fishing for information that he wouldn’t give him “the skin off a grape.” Without Victor Mature’s understated performance Richard Widmark’s Tommy Udo may have lost some of his effectiveness by seeming too over the top or out of place contrasted by a less convincing Nick Bianco. The two portrayals, however, balance each other perfectly and create a solid foundation of tension and excitement for this brilliant “film noir” film that brings all elements together that also brings to the screen a highly charged finale and that is why the director Henry Hathaway was the ideal choice to direct this film to its final conclusion. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso