A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

GERD OSWALD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.  USA, 1956.  Crown Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by Lucien Ballard.  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , .  Film Editing by .

Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner in A Kiss Before Dying.

The first of two adaptations of Ira Levin’s first novel, this one stars a subtly creepy as an ambitious sociopath who romances at college and pretends that he wants to marry her after she reveals to him that she is pregnant.  She is the daughter of a rich industrialist who will never accept their union, so Wagner decides to start all over again: he commits murder and makes it look like a suicide, then heads out to find her sister () and use her to work his way into the family’s money.  A textbook example of fifties aspirational Americana on screen, this one features the opulent beauty of widescreen cinematography and some dazzling, bright colours that feel so sinister when applied to a story so quietly destructive.  The performances are impressive, making it that much more disappointing that the film is weighed down by sluggish direction from the debuting Gerd Oswald, who kills a great deal of the possible tension with a wooden pace and little ingenuity in his visual construction.  Remade in 1991 by James Dearden with Sean Young and Matt Dillon.

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