6.8/10
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61 user 22 critic

A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

Approved | | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery | 12 June 1956 (USA)
A ruthless college student resorts to murder in a futile attempt to marry an heiress.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Bud Corliss
...
Gordon Grant
...
Ellen Kingship
...
Dorothy ('Dorie') Kingship
...
Mrs. Corliss
...
Leo Kingship
...
Dwight Powell
Howard Petrie ...
Howard Chesser, Chief of Police
Bill Walker ...
Bill, the Butler
Molly McCart ...
Annabelle Koch
Marlene Felton ...
Medical Student
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Storyline

Student Bud Corliss is wooing Dorother Kingship purely for her father's mining fortune. When he finds she is pregnant he realises she is likely to be disinherited, so cleverly stages her suicide. After a couple of months her sister back home finds evidence to question the suicide verdict, but by then has a new boyfriend of her own... Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Some secrets can't be kept ... they have to be buried !


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

12 June 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ein Kuss vor dem Tode  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)| (35 mm magnetic prints)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was made and released about three years after its source novel of the same name by Ira Levin had been first published in 1953. See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the film, where Dorie is crying on the bed, Bud goes over and turns on a small lamp on the dresser. The bright light streaming through the blinds in the window behind, spilling on to the far wall disappears - not instantly or all at once, but more slowly from right to left and finally in the window itself, as if a "barn door" or other shutter system was being closed on a light offstage. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Bud Corliss: Crying isn't going to help.
Dorothy Kingship: I just can't help it.
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Connections

Remade as Baazigar (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

A Kiss Before Dying
Music by Lionel Newman
Lyrics by Carroll Coates
Sung by Dolores Hawkins
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

"Are Those Girls Gonna Be Surprised!"
7 July 1999 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

An evil young man resorts to murder in his efforts to get his hands on an heiress's fortune. Unluckily for him, the heiress's sister and a smart young college lecturer smell a rat ...

This is a sumptuous mid-50's all-American movie, set in a world of sorority houses, open-top cars and drug stores. The boys have shiny, well-oiled hair and the girls wear big skirts. Courting couples meet on the bleachers at the football field between classes.

Shot in cinemascope, the film's aspect ratio means that television (where I saw it) does it a disservice: all too often, dialogues are conducted between two noses at either extreme of the screen. The colour is 'de luxe', so the credits tell us, and indeed the look of the film is rich and bright.

The film is a standard thriller, based on an Ira Levin novel. It is well put together, and has a nice, slinky jazz score, including the theme song (playing on the juke box during one of Bud's dates with Dory).

The opening is impressive. The camera pans around a student's bedroom, neatly setting the scene for us. We hear (but do not see) a girl crying. Gradually, as the characters are revealed, we get the message - Dory has found out that she is pregnant by Bud. She has a wealthy father, but is prepared to forego comfort if the man she loves will marry her. Bud is much more interested in the family money.

Even though Bud is despicable, we find ourselves wanting his scheme to succeed, so cleverly are we drawn into his plan. He surreptitiously studies poisons in the university library, then by a cunning ploy gains access to the chemistry lab. He composes a note in Spanish, ostensibly a piece he needs to translate for his class, then gets Dory to write out the English for him. She doesn't realise it, but she is writing her own 'suicide note'. Gerd Oswald's direction is strong on body language throughout the movie, and we cannot help but see the significance when Dory (played by Joanne Woodward) goes to kiss Bud, and he flinches.

A very young Robert Wagner portrays Bud as a slick, incredibly handsome villain with no feelings. He feigns affection for women, but is capable of none. When he cajoles his mother (Mary Astor) into choosing a tie for him, he craftily changes it for a preferred one when her back is turned.

The director is adept at conveying information without words. When Bud looks at the municipal building and marvels at its height, we know straight away what he is planning. When he is on the roof, the tension is sustained commendably.

Victoria Leith plays Ellen, Dory's sister. In another fine 'body language' moment, we see her subtly shrugging off her father's attempt to comfort her. We gather from this that Ellen blames him for what happened to Dory.

The plot contains some elements which stretch our credulity. If the ending is contrived and highly improbable, at least the incremental steps by which doubt invades Ellen's awareness are cleverly done.

Is it a coincidence that Jeff Hunter (Gordon Grant) and Robert Wagner look so alike? Or are they meant to represent two facets of intelligence - one cold and selfish, the other beneficent and altruistic? In the scene just before the engagement party, they are even dressed identically.

Verdict - A cleverly-executed murder flick.


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