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First feature film from director Fred Zinneman is a snappy little "B" feature that features Van Heflin as the head of a city crime lab who solves the murder of the town mayor by analyzing evidence from the crime. Written by
Offbeat forensic thriller offers glimpses of coming noir cycle
The title hints at something possibly more provocative kinkier than what the movie is. It has one foot in the fast-paced stories of urban corruption and crime of the 1930s, the other in the more disillusioned, skeptical world of emerging film noir of the 1940s.
Instead of a crusading newspaper reporter, Kid Glove Killer gives us a forensic investigator (Van Heflin) working for the police department of a mid-sized city. Its citizens are under siege from a criminal combine that suborns public officials and operates shakedown rackets. Two high-profile political murders galvanize the populace and a prosecutor (Lee Bowman) who, in an eerie preview of talk radio, delivers slanted law-and-order rants over the air. But we soon find out that he's on the mob payroll and is actually the killer (who uses not kid gloves but car bombs).
He's also romancing Heflin's lab assistant (Marsha Hunt); Heflin's also sweet on her if he'd lift his droopy eyes from a microscope long enough to admit it. The story turns on Heflin's sifting through the evidence to exonerate an innocent man whom Bowman tries to railroad. But when the evidence starts building up, Hunt inadvertently spills the beans to the vigilant Bowman.
Kid Glove Killer stays a cut or two above the standard programmer by virtue of superior acting (Heflin never had the parts his talent deserved) and its unusual, if primitive, forensic angle. It's noteworthy that the final clue sealing Bowman's fate is predicated on the assumption that, back in 1942, men did not bother to wash their hair more often than once a week.
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