KISS OF DEATH FILM NOIR 11 Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 1947 Film Length: 98 minutes Genre: Crime/Drama/Film Noir Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.33:1 Colour/B&W: B&W Audio:[*] English & Spanish 2.0 mono [*]English 2.0 stereo Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: Not Rated Release Date: December 6, 2005. Film Rating: / Starring: Victor Mature (Nick Bianco), Brian Donlevy (Assistant D.A. Louie DeAngelo), Richard Widmark (Tommy Udo), Colleen Gray (Nettie) Written by: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, and Eleazar Lipsky Directed by: Henry Hathaway It will mark you for life as it marked him for…Betrayal.[/i] Kiss of Death is the eleventh film in the Fox Film Noir Series. More importantly (for all you classic movie buffs), this is the film where Richard Widmark shoves a wheelchair bound woman down a dark staircase. Its exciting moments like this that makes Kiss of Death a wildly original story of desperation, betrayal and revenge. This is the story of Nick Bianco. Nick is a small time crook with a string of bad luck. He can’t get a decent job because of his previous run-ins with the law. In order to support his family during the Christmas season, Nick plans a jewellery heist. When he is arrested, the Assistant D.A. gives Nick an opportunity to turn-in his accomplices in exchange for a lighter sentence. Nick refuses and doesn’t squeal on the others involved. He is prepared to do his time like a man. However, Nick has a change of heart when he learns that his wife committed suicide and his daughters have been sent to an orphanage. It’s at this moment that Nick’s compassionate side is revealed. Desperate to be with his daughters, Nick decides to co-operate with the assistant D.A. Because three years have passed since the initial offer, Nick is informed that the terms of the deal have changed: Nick will receive his freedom if he assists the police in putting his former prison mate, killer Tommy Udo behind bars for life. Recognizing this as his only ticket to freedom, Nick reluctantly accepts. Nick is released on parole and begins his search for Udo. When they finally meet up, Udo is thrilled to see his old pal and believes that Nick’s friendship is genuine. While reminiscing with Nick, Udo reveals details of a previous heist for which he escaped all suspicion. Nick provides the Assistant D.A. with this information hoping that the evidence is enough to put Udo behind bars. Even though Nick feels guilty for squealing on Udo, he figures that Udo won’t know who gave him up. It’s when Nick is called to testify in Udo’s trial that the real nightmare begins: Udo is acquitted on a technicality and Nick’s family becomes the object of Udo’s revenge. Udo’s desperate hunt for Nick leads to a climatic finale where Nick sees self-sacrifice as the only way of preventing harm to his family and ensuring Udo is put away for good. Kiss of Death combines many elements of classic film noir. Director Henry Hathaway illustrates the conflict between good and evil through the contrast of light and dark. The usage of shadows on walls, the overwhelming darkness, extreme close-ups and distorted camera angles heighten Nick’s entrapment and internal conflicts. David Buttolph’s marching score mirrors Udo’s sadistic hunt through the city for Nick. With solid performances by Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy and Richard Widmark (who received an Oscar nod for his film debut), Kiss of Death is classic film noir at its best. (DS) VIDEO QUALITY / Much better looking than The Dark Corner, Kiss of Death is free from most major film artefacts, dirt, tears, etc. for a very pleasing picture quality. It also looks warmer in colour temperature when viewing it at 5400K. Resolution is pleasing and black levels are deep but still undefined. Still, the sense of 3-D was good on this DVD. The brightest parts of the picture never look clipped and I never thought I was missing any details in that part of the picture. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and closely resembles that of its original exhibition. (MO) AUDIO QUALITY / I’m impressed with the quality of the audio on this release. The first thing one will notice is how “quiet” this soundtrack is. At my reference level, background noise is almost inaudible for a film of this age. This allows more of the subtle sound effects to be heard more and it also increases the fantastic suspense at the opening of the film. It feels like it takes forever to ride down the elevator as the criminals try to escape the robbery. I could almost hear what they were thinking beyond the sounds of the elevator door. All sounds in this Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack are tightly focussed in the middle of my two main speakers. The sound is well recorded. Dialogue has presence as well as body to it, and never sounds too forward or harsh. Sound effects, while not very dynamic, do not sound strained or congested in the soundtrack. The music in the film is also decently recorded and heightens the action and suspense on screen. Whatever clean-up was done to the audio on this film is fantastic. Again, stick to the mono soundtrack. The fake stereo soundtrack has little imaging and has a center-left-channel leaning characteristic. (MO) SPECIAL FEATURES / Like The Dark Corner, Alain Silver and James Ursini provide wonderful commentary on this film that can’t be explained here in detail and just has to be heard on its own! You’ll also get to view 9 still images of poster art of the film. There are also noir trailers for Call Northside 777, House of Bamboo, Laura, Panic in the Streets, and The Street with No Name. (MO) IN THE END… Kiss of Death is a much better entry in this wave of film noir classics from Fox. The countless hours that are devoted to restoring a single film often go unnoticed by the average moviegoer. For those of us who watch movies to experience more than just the story, this film is a success on many levels. There are little (or no) distractions from the sound and picture quality. Therefore, while becoming enthralled by the storyline and characters, we also appreciate the quality of the soundtrack, lighting and unique camerawork - all of which are essential components when defining a classic noir film. Michael Osadciw & Debrah Scarfone January 07, 2006.