A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

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Released 14-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 90:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gerd Oswald

Starring Robert Wagner
Jeffrey Hunter
Virginia Leith
Joanne Woodward
Mary Astor
George MacReady
Robert Quarry
Howard Petrie
Bill Walker
Molly McCart
Marlene Felton
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Lionel Newman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    MGM have been releasing a lot of back catalogue titles since taking over their local distribution and despite some criticisms they are certainly releasing some very interesting films. This one hails from 1956 and is directed by first-time feature director Gerd Oswald, probably best known for his work in TV series such as Bonanza, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits and even episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. He was also one of the many directors involved in The Longest Day.

    A Kiss Before Dying is a well made thriller starring Robert Wagner (if you are not very old you may only know him as Number 2 in the Austin Powers films). Wagner is a 25 year old college student who is very ambitious but seems overly attached to his mother (Mary Astor). He comes across as very cold and manipulative, especially when presented with the news that his girlfriend, Dorothy Kingship (Joanne Woodward) is pregnant. He is even more concerned when Dorothy or Dory (as he calls her) tells him that her father, a rich copper mining magnate, will probably disown her when he hears the news. He decides to stage her 'suicide'. I will not give away any more of the plot, but whatever you do, don't watch the included trailer before watching the film or you will know everything. Other characters of note are Gordon Grant (Jeffrey Hunter) who is Dorothy's tutor and also a close relative of the local chief of police and Dorothy's sister Ellen (Virginia Leith).

    I enjoyed this film. It was tightly plotted, not wasting any time in telling its story. The score by Lionel Newman also added significantly to the feel of the film. Generally, the standard of acting was pretty good with Robert Wagner cold as ice in his role. The only actor I found difficult to believe and a little wooden was Dorothy & Ellen's father, played by George Macready.

    This film is certainly not to the standard of Hitchcock films of a similar era, however, it is certainly worth seeing if you enjoy films of this ilk.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is reasonable but has some significant artefacts.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise, although there was a colour artefact which badly affected the blacks in some scenes. There was some grain throughout, fairly heavy in some scenes. The shadow detail was surprisingly good for a film of this age, without having the detail which can be seen in modern films.

    The colour was generally pretty good and well saturated however in some scenes there was a problem with the colour where blacks would change to blue and back again. This was especially bad around the 45:00 mark. Other colours also seemed to be affected by this. Overall, the effect was like the exposure was changing back and forth. There was also a coloured spot which appeared briefly at 39:55.

    From an artefacts perspective there was also quite a bit happening during this film. There were quite a few specks and flecks throughout, some edge enhancement (examples at 12:00, 13:50 & 67:21), a jump at 82:36 and some spots where the camera seemed to zoom in slightly and then back out. Additionally, early in the film at 3:00 the scene had a number of incidences of changing exposure similar to that mentioned in the colour section above but without the effect on the blacks.

    There are subtitles in 11 languages including both English & German for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear, easy to read but a little summarised from the spoken word.

    The layer change occurs at 59:25 and is reasonably well done.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is good but mono.

    This DVD contains four audio options, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in German, French & Italian. The soundtrack is fairly quiet, and I had to set the amplifier at 10dB above my normal reference level for the dialogue to be clearly audible.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand (once the volume was turned up) and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Lionel Newman is excellent and includes not only the score but also big band jazz arrangements of Newman's tunes by the Nelson Riddle and Billy May jazz orchestras. The score adds significant tension and feeling to the film.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer are not used.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included shots from the film and a scene selection function.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

    Warning! Do not watch this before watching the film. It gives away the biggest twist in the whole film. One interesting part of the voiceover occurs whilst a picture of Virginia Leith in a bathing suit is shown, where it speaks about 'feminine allure, such as this!'. I thought this was amusing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released in Region 1 in a similar package with only minor differences in subtitle options and in exactly the same form in Region 2. Let's call it a draw.


    This disc contains a nice little thriller from 1956 starring Robert 'Number 2' Wagner.

    The video quality is reasonable but has some significant issues.

    The audio quality is good.

    The disc has only a theatrical trailer as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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