Love conquers all...
A Kiss Before Dying is directed by Gerd Oswald and adapted to screenplay by Lawrence Roman from the novel of the same name written by Ira Levin. It stars Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Virginia Leith, Jeffrey Hunter and Mary Astor. A CinemaScope/De Luxe Color production, music is by Lionel Newman and cinematography by Lucien Ballard.
Plot basically finds Wagner as a scheming pretty boy willing to commit murder in order to reach the riches of an inheritance. Story bubbles away nicely as Bud Corlis (Wagner) and Dorothy Kingship (Woodward), he sly and distant - she vulnerable and love struck, both hold court with performances of merit. The spiky edge comes by way of knowing what Bud is up to, and that poor Dorothy is completely oblivious, and when the key moment comes, it's shocking and really perches ones expectation levels to the edge of the seat.
Sadly the second half of the movie doesn't quite live up to the promise of the first, for here the focus shifts from a twist into an investigation by Dorothy's sister, Ellen (Leith), who refuses to accept the official party line surrounding her sister. It's all very competently mounted, but the pervading sense of menace has dissipated and in place is just an average murder mystery.
Wagner and Woodward are very good, Leith not so much, while Hunter as a pipe smoking professor is badly miscast and Astor is under used. Oswald's direction is fine, with some nifty long takes and some very cheeky visual jokes that only become apparent once story has run its course. Ballard's Scope photography is impressive, managing to make the bright colourful city surrounds always appear as threatening, and Newman's musical arrangements are indicative of the murder mystery splinter of 50s film noir.
The themes at the core of the picture are daring and interesting, though more should have been made of the hinted at fact that Bud is a troubled war veteran. It's not all that it can be, the second half diluting the whole as it were, but this is still a tasty noir thriller worthy of catching. 7/10