No(ir)vember: Kiss of Death (1947)

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It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Victor Mature. A Hollywood hunk, he gave two of his finest performances in two great noirs, Cry of the City (1948) and Kiss of Death (1947), but was outclassed each time by Richard Conte in the former and Richard Widmark in the latter. It’s hard to believe it was Widmark’s screen debut. In just 15 minutes of screen time, he gives a mesmerising performance as Tommy Udo, taking psychotic to a whole new level. You can’t take your eyes off him. Nobody has ever had such a terrifying laugh and the wheelchair scene is still chilling with its deranged violence and cruelty.

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Convicted for at attempted jewel robbery, Nick (Mature) is happy not to name names until he learns that his wife has committed suicide after struggling with financial problems and that his young daughters have been placed in an orphanage. He decides to cooperate with the D.A. (Brian Donlevy) who’s trying to put deranged criminal Tommy Udo (Widmark) away. Nicks is released and marries Nettie (Colleen Gray), but when Udo goes free, he begins to fear for his family and his life.

Expertly directed by Henry Hathaway, this is a tightly structured and tense film that never lets up. Free to watch on YouTube.

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