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Bill Saunders, disturbed ex-soldier, kills a man in a postwar London pub brawl. Fleeing, he hides out in the apartment of lonely nurse Jane Wharton. Later, despite misgivings about his violent nature, Jane becomes involved with Bill, who resolves to reform. She gets him a job driving a medical supplies truck. But racketeer Harry Carter, who witnessed the killing, wants to use Bill's talents for crime. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The story takes place in England, where automobiles and trucks are right-hand drive; but the truck Bill drives is left-hand drive. See more »
[to Bill Saunders]
... furthermore, although these appear to be first offenses, in view of the brutal nature of the assault, I have no alternative but to direct that you receive eighteen lashes of the cat-o'-nine-tails.
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Kiss the Blood Off My Hands is directed by Norman Foster and adapted to screenplay by Leonardo Bercovici and Walter Bernstein from the novel of the same name written by Gerald Butler. It stars Joan Fontaine, Burt Lancaster and Robert Newton. Music is by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography by Russell Metty.
It's a film that has a very up and down relationship among film noir aficionados, which is perfectly understandable. In many ways it's a frustrating viewing experience, because it has some truly great moments and from a visual perspective it's moody personified. In fact the back drops are pure noir dressage, even if the American studio recreation of post war London doesn't exactly look as it should.
Things start brilliantly with a brooding Lancaster accidentally killing the landlord of a public house with one punch, and then subsequently he is pursued through the dank streets of London in a chase sequence of some gusto. Upon entering a bedroom window he is met by a startled Fontaine, and thus begins a love affair between two opposites.
We learn that Lancaster's character is a scarred man from the war, that he was in a Prisoner of War camp, and that he just can't catch a break. Hanging around the vicinity is Newton's cockney low life, who witnessed the killing of the publican and uses this fact to blackmail Lancaster into doing an illegal job for him.
Film is 98% shot at night time, Metty's black and white photography tonally oppressive, this marries up nicely with the trials and tribulations of Lancaster throughout the picture. Fontaine is a radiant foil (this in spite of her suffering morning sickness as she was in early pregnancy), in fact both leading actors work very hard to make the thin screenplay work. But thin it is, and it sadly doesn't deliver a whammy at the finish.
It's a shame that the writing couldn't do justice to the themes of the plot, this is after all a story involving killings, violence, corporal punishment and dissociative disorder. What promises to be a tale of doomed lovers, ends up being a troubled romantic melodrama dressed up in noir clobber. That said, it's never less than enjoyable and the high points (visuals, acting, Rózsa's score) make it worth time invested. 6.5/10
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