Friday, August 9, 2013

Five Nights With...1956: A Kiss Before Dying

So we’ve come to the end of the first installment of our ‘Five Nights With…’ series.  I hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed doing it.  Like I said, I’m going to do this the first full week of every month (unless something comes up and I have to move it) so I hope that you can participate next time (I’ll post the theme and films for next month at the end of the post) because it’s always more fun the more hands we have in the pot.

Carrying on with the theme of the month, last night I sat down to another film from 1956.  This one is ‘A Kiss Before Dying’, a small thriller by director Gerd Oswald and starring Robert Wagner and introducing the great Joanne Woodward.  Now, I connected this to yesterday’s entry, ‘Written on the Wind’ through their trashy tone.  Yes, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ is a rather trashy film.

Sadly, where ‘Written on the Wind’ embraces that trash and delivers something truly entertaining, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ embraces that trash in a different way.

It’s just trash.

‘A Kiss Before Dying’ tries really hard to be all things Alfred Hitchcock while lacking any of the talent or composure to create something that sacred.  It tries to establish thrills and chills through familiar scenarios and thinks that dragging out key moments will sustain dread, but all it winds up doing is wearing thin and allowing the audience to disconnect from those moments, thus losing all sense of thrill.  For example, the murder scene takes so long to commit that all shock is lost and we are left picturing the deed a good minute or so before it is actually committed.  The flirting with the obvious only works if your director is smart enough or creative enough to find ways visually to reel us in closer.  The camera never moves, the shots feel redundant and so the dread flees rather quickly, if it was ever there at all.

(you can actually watch the murder scene here if you want to see what I'm talking about)

Add to this the dreadful acting on the part of the film’s lead, Robert Wagner, and you have the recipe for disaster.

I find it really humorous that Joanne Woodward claimed this to be her worst film.  I actually watched this for her, because I’m a huge fan.  She claimed this not only her worst film, but one of the worst films ever made.  I have to agree.  I found nothing of merit here.  This was as pedestrian as they come, but worse than that.  It was dull and pandering.  Sadly, this isn’t even so bad it’s good, it’s just downright awful!

So, there you have it; the completed series for August.  Next month we’ll be spending five nights with Elle Fanning.  I actually chose her because of a recent viewing of 1988’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’.  I know that may sound odd, since Fanning wasn’t alive in 1988, but the English dubbed version of the film has both Fanning girls in the lead roles.  So, why not spend some time with my favorite working child actor (yup, I said it).  So, the five films I chose are:

My Neighbor Totoro (9/2)
Ginger and Rosa (9/3)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (9/4)
Somewhere (9/5)
Super 8 (9/6)

I hope that you can participate.  If you’d like to post your thoughts on those films on your own blogs, email me the links at and I’ll be sure to link your posts to mine!  


  1. Oh, an Elle Fanning mini-marathon. Somewhere I'm convinced is her crowning achievement as well as Sofia Coppola's second-best film though it is clearly not for everyone.

    1. I really, really liked Somewhere, and Elle gets a Fisti nomination for it as well.

  2. Great first week, and I love your next theme! Don't know if I'll be able to participate or not, as my ballots pretty much dictate my viewing. (I'm even falling behind on new releases lately.)

    1. I know what you mean. No worries. I'm sure you've seen most of those films though (at least the last three) so you can chime in for sure.

  3. Yes this is a bad film but have you ever seen the remake? It's worse! Matt Dillon's performance is superior to Wagner's but it provides the viewer with not just one but two truly atrocious performances by Sean Young. Not just bad but jaw droppingly awful.

    At least this one has Mary Astor and Joanne Woodward to soften the blow. I love Joanne too, I've missed her since her retirement and was sad to hear recently she's been ravaged by Alzheimer's disease, she always brought such an intelligent air to her portrayals. Her filmography is a variable lot but if this isn't her worst film, A Fine Madness and They Might Be Giants are in the running, it's certainly close.

    1. Ewww, I didn't know this had a remake!

      So sad to hear about Woodward, that's awful!

  4. I agree that A Kiss Before Dying is not at the level of a Hitchcock film. However, Robert Wagner's performance was chilling. At the time, it was a stark departure from his other roles. I also found the film to be an accurate depiction of a psychopath. I wrote a short essay on the film called "The Charming Psychopath." If you would like to read it, here is the link:

    1. I'll check it out for sure! Thanks for stopping by.