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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
This low-budget MGM crime flick is surprisingly entertaining. The best way to enjoy it is to suspend what you know about today's film-making and settle into a more innocent time when plotslike the movies themselveswere in black and white, when characters were labeled good or bad, when dialog was crisply effective (though artificial) and when even the deadliest dramas ended with wedding bells. One thing that separates "Kid Glove Killer" from similar films of the 1930s and '40s is the fact that its protagonist, Gordon McKay (Van Heflin) is not only a cop. He's in charge of a police crime laboratory. With the aid of his assistant, Jane Mitchell (Marsha Hunt), McKay solves murders and rids the city of corruption by using a microscope, a spectrograph and other tools thatmutatis mutandiswill be used again in crime-scene-investigation stories for decades to come, up to and including the current "CSI" television series. McKay scrapes beneath fingernails, vacuums people's hair and analyzes fibers to get trace evidence that will nail the crooks. The fact that you know all along who the crooks are doesn't spoil the funit's that kind of movie. Embedded in the investigation is a love triangle whose outcome is so obvious that you can go for popcorn without missing a beat. The acting is above par. Van Heflin's performance is adept if unspectacular. (That same year Heflin won a best-supporting-actor Oscar for "Johnny Eager.") Lee Bowman is suavely manipulative as a power-seeker. Marsha Hunt makes what she can of a role that has her wearing a lab coat one minute and an evening gown the next. In those days, of course, it was a Hollywood cliché that a professional woman would slog away at her job only till she could junk it in favor of marriage. This movie observes the cliché, but there is a hint of feminism in the fact that Jane Mitchellwhom everyone calls simply "Mitchell"works as a chemist, a job more often held by men. Notable among supporting players are John Litel as a crime boss and Eddie Quillan as a victimized citizen. If you look fast, you can see Ava Gardner and Robert Blake in uncredited bit parts. This was Fred Zinnemann's first feature film, and he keeps the whole thing moving to a time clock. The bare-bones production and its repeated use of the same interior sets are not major drawbacks. "Kid Glove Killer" was never intended to be pâté de foie gras. It's a ham sandwich. Pass the mustard.
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