Based on a true story, Kiss of Death is given a veneer of reality by being filmed on location in New York, with a bare minimum of studio work. In one of his best performances, Victor Mature plays a cheap crook who is sent up the river for 20 years for robbery.
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I never quite understand these movies where we're supposed to have pity on the criminal (Mature) because he has a family. I think it's because of the hair. Mature has such beautiful hair. It makes him more sympathetic. It's why he was perfect for Samson. Udo on the other hand has hair that makes him look deranged when he's not hiding it under that big hat. It's an amazing set of performances.
One of the biggest myths of classic Hollywood is that Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death is worthwhile solely because of the over-the-top screen debut of Richard Widmark. To be certain, Widmark’s performance as bloodthirsty hoodlum Tommy Udo is incendiary, so it is understandable that it would overshadow other elements of the film. It’s unfortunate, because there is so much more to it than just Widmark.
Richard Widmark turns a semi mediocre noir into an above average picture with his academy award nominated performance as the chuckling killer Tommy Udo. You'd get the impression that Heath Ledger watched this movie before his attempt at playing the Joker. The film also has a neo-realist style before the Italians took it into full force, by filming most of the film in real life New York, and not in a studio.
Very solid noir with possibly Mature's best acting performance. Unfortunately, he is overshadowed a bit by Widmark's crazy good debut performance, and that tends to be all one remembers about the film. Reminds of Naked City at times with the NYC location shooting and semi-doc style, but I feel like that one was the better picture. Still worth a look. Solid 4 stars
"Who was the greatest influence on your life?
Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death.When Widmark pushed that old lady in that wheelchair down that flight of stairs, it was like a personal breakthrough for me.It resolved a number of conflicts.I copied his sadistic laugh and used it for ten years.Remember that creepy laugh?Hyena-faced.A ghoulish titter.It clarified a number of things in my life.Helped me become a person."