Kiss of Death (1947) (NTSC)

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Released 2-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Film-Noir None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1947
Running Time 98:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Henry Hathaway
Studio
Distributor
20th CENTURY FOX
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Victor Mature
Brian Donlevy
Coleen Gray
Richard Widmark
Taylor Holmes
Howard Smith
Karl Malden
Anthony Ross
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $14.95 Music David Buttolph


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, it is the 1940s
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Father of two young daughters, Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) is unable to get a job because of his criminal record. Desperate to buy Christmas presents for his girls, he joins a gang robbing a jewellery store, only to be wounded and caught by the Police. He is offered a deal by Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy); inform on the other members of the gang and receive a reduced sentence. Bianco refuses, promised by crooked mob attorney Earl Howser (Taylor Holmes) that his wife and daughters will be looked after. However, the promise is false; three years later Bianco’s destitute wife commits suicide and his daughters are taken into an orphanage. Bianco contacts D’Angelo; the price for his freedom is to befriend and inform on mob hit man Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). Bianco agrees; Udo is caught and Bianco starts a new life with a job, his children and new wife Nettie (Coleen Gray). But when Udo is acquitted despite Bianco’s testimony, Bianco knows that Udo will come after himself and his family. So he decides to go looking for Udo before Udo comes looking for him.

     Directed by Henry Hathaway (The Black Rose (1950), True Grit (1969)), Kiss of Death is an economical thriller that builds, layer by layer, into a tense and riveting climax. As Bianco, a man whose past means that he has few choices, Victor Mature is very good but the standout performance comes from Richard Widmark. This was Widmark’s first screen role and it is a cracker. His psychopathic, giggling Udo is both mesmerising and menacing and was good enough to gain him an Oscar nomination. He lost to Edmund Gwenn who won for his role in Miracle on 34th Street but of course Widmark went on to have a long, stellar career; who remembers Gwenn now? The tense confrontation in the restaurant when Bianco catches up with Udo shows two fine actors playing off each other to brilliant effect. Yet this is not the only tense, well staged sequence; the opening robbery and the sequence when Bianco, waiting at his house for Udo, receives unexpected visitors are both excellent, aided by the black and white photography and the noir light and shadows of cinematographer Norbert Brodine.

     Kiss of Death is not classic noir; while there are light and shadows galore there is no deadly femme fatale. Instead, we get a compelling, psychotic performance from Richard Widmark in a sparse, tense thriller that is always entertaining.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Kiss of Death is presented in an NTSC print in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio is 1.37:1.

     The print is quite good for a 60 year plus black and white film. The film looks soft, contrast and brightness vary, blacks are dull but OK and shadow detail acceptable. There are also frequent small artefacts, the odd vertical scratch and aliasing on bars at 15:34. There is also constant grain. However, none of this distracting.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps which does a good job, with all audio in the centre speaker. Dialogue is mostly clear, although some of Widmark’s dialogue is indistinct, there is some hiss, but no crackles or distortion. The effects are flat, but acceptable. Obviously, there is no surround or sub woofer use.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The score by David Buttolph is not over used and suits the sparse mood of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region 1 NTSC US release includes an audio commentary by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver (it is reported to be excellent), a stills gallery, theatrical trailer and 5 other Fox trailers. The Region 2 UK edition includes an interview with Richard Widmark, theatrical trailer and a 14 page booklet with an essay by Lee Server. The video and audio quality of all releases seems similar, so our Region 4 NTSC release, with no extras at all, is the weakest version available.

Summary

     Kiss of Death features a compelling, psychotic performance from Richard Widmark in a sparse, tense thriller that is always entertaining. The video and audio are good for a 64 year old film but we miss out on the extras available in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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Kiss of death - zetmoon