An ex-con trying to go straight must face a crazed criminal out for revenge.
Hard hitter from Hathaway, Hecht and Lederer. Adapted from a story by Eleazar Lipsky, Kiss Of Death is a tough, even frightening Crime/Noir picture that has a gritty realistic feel. Helped enormously by director Henry Hathaway shooting the whole picture in New York, Kiss Of Death is also notable for being the searing debut of Richard Widmark. With no intention of soft soaping the story, the makers cunningly lure us viewers onto the seamy New York streets. Thus with the New York locations as expertly used as they are by Hathaway, Kiss Of Death attains a documentary style similar to other notable genre pictures like Call Northside 777 (also Hathaway). Narrating the picture is Nettie (Coleen Gray in her first credited role), the second wife of Nick Bianco (Victor Mature). Telling of his rough and troubled life, we learn that Bianco was part of a gang who was caught during a jewelry robbery over the Christmas holiday. Lied to by his lawyer, Bianco learns during his prison term that his first wife has killed herself and that his darling two girls have been packed off to an orphanage. Fretting and desperate to see his girls, Bianco makes a deal with Assistant District Attorney Louis D'Angelo (Brian Donlevy), where in exchange for is parole, he will rat out his old gang buddies. D'Angelo is mostly concerned with one man tho, sadistic murderer and boss, Tommy Udo (Widmark). Bianco must pal up to Udo and hope that he doesn't get found out, for if he does, Udo is sure to enact psychotic retribution on Nick and all those close to him. Mature gives one of his finest shows as the pained Bianco forced to squeal, Gray as his second wife is sedate and effective and Donlevy as the crusading Assistant D.A. with a heart is as reliable as he always is. But all are playing second fiddle to Widmark, ferocious stare, dirty laugh and an unnerving falsetto voice, it announced Widmark to the cinematic world, garnered him a contract with Twentieth Century Fox and he never looked back afterwards. Some of his scenes are just mesmerising, including one that is as shocking as it is a lesson in villainy. Taut and tight scripting from the Hecht/Lederer partnership, with rounded characters and a sensible plot, Kiss Of Death is not to be missed by the Crime/Noir genre/style fan. 8.5/10