7.3/10
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Born to Kill (1947)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 3 May 1947 (USA)
A calculating divorcée risks her chances at wealth and security with a man she doesn't love by getting involved with the hotheaded murderer romancing her foster sister.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Eve Greene (screenplay), Richard Macaulay (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claire Trevor ... Helen
Lawrence Tierney ... Sam
Walter Slezak ... Arnett
Phillip Terry ... Fred
Audrey Long ... Georgia
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Marty
Isabel Jewell ... Laury Palmer
Esther Howard ... Mrs. Kraft
Kathryn Card Kathryn Card ... Grace
Tony Barrett Tony Barrett ... Danny
Grandon Rhodes ... Inspector Wilson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jason Robards Sr. ... Conductor (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

In Reno a man kills a girl he likes and her boyfriend out of jealousy; it may not be the first time. A woman whose divorce has just come through finds the bodies but decides not to become involved. The two meet next day on the train to San Francisco unaware of this link between them. They are attracted to each other, and the relationship survives his marriage to her half-sister for money and status. It even survives the woman discovering that he was the murderer, though she may not realise how easily someone who has killed this way before can do so again. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE COLDEST KILLER A WOMAN EVER LOVED! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 May 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Deadlier Than the Male See more »

Filming Locations:

Reno, Nevada, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The French film maker Jean-Pierre Melville was influenced by the movie; he borrowed the lost isolated house settings, at night, the same kind of settings you have in his movie : Le Doulos. See more »

Goofs

When Mrs. Kraft rolls down the hill in the desert, her head is pointing left when she comes to a stop. After the edit (when the stunt double is replaced), her head is now pointing to the right. See more »

Quotes

Laury Palmer: Oh, why not? If you're glad about the divorce, you ought to celebrate. And if you're sad and wanna forget about it, you ought to celebrate. So either way, you ought to celebrate.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

I'm Dreaming Out Loud
(uncredited)
Music by Lew Pollack
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Leads shine along highway to hell in film noir gem
29 April 2000 | by Joseph_GillisSee all my reviews

I was delighted when I saw that Quentin Tarantino had given a starring role in his debut film, Reservoir Dogs, to Lawrence Tierney. I had read somewhere a year or two prior to its release that he had been finding it hard to get roles; that invariably he was involved in barroom brawls and , well, that he was difficult. Of course, the role didn't require any great acting ability and it couldn't be said that the big lug had grown old gracefully, but I got the impression that it was in recognition of his services to cult filmdom that he was being rewarded by the new kid on the block.

I first saw Born To Kill in the late 80's on one of those TV channels dedicated to old black and white movies and I was immediately wowed. It was my first sight of Lawrence Tierney and both in his presence and the enthusiasm he brought to his role he certainly made a huge impression. You could never accuse him of being a great actor but he had the perfect bad guy presence: he had the physique and tough look about him that neither Bogart nor the diminutive Raft could touch and, while his features were certainly handsome enough for Hollywood, his smile was too disarming to make him a romantic lead (it reminded me nothing so much as a shark at feeding time). And this role was perfect for him: ruthless, amoral, his character, Sam Wild, was like a steamroller who mowed down anybody, girlfriends, men friends, wives, that stood in his way or upset him. It may well have been the closest to the big leagues that he got and, for me, its the best thing he's ever done (and, under Wise's economic direction, the film could certainly compare favourably with Reservoir Dogs).

The film sits well with all those minor noir classics the late 40's and early 50's with apparent ease: Wise's own The Set-Up; Anthony Mann's Raw Deal and the T-Men, Kiss Of Death, and Ray's masterly debut, They Live By Night.

It's not specified just who the title refers to but it could apply equally and aptly to both Tierney's and his peerless co-star's Claire Trevor (for me the Queen of the noir femme fatales)characters.(In the UK it is titled Lady OF Deceit but in my opinion it does Tierney a disservice by apparently ignoring his contribution to the mayhem).

The story is basically a simple one: Tierney is an ex-boxer who is prone to violent fits of jealousy which erupts with fatal consequences when he spots a girl friend out with another man. Claire Trevor's character discovers the bodies but finds herself attracted to the excitement and danger which she sees Tierney providing for her while recognising his flaws.

He uses Trevor to marry into family money while at the same time needing the thrill of an adulterous affair with her. Of course, that could never work!.

Perversely, I found myself cheering for Tierney and Trevor and hoping that they would find true love (maybe it's because the other loves are such drips), but that could never be in noir. In addition to the stars, it boasts wonderful performances by notorious scene-stealers, Elisha Cook Jr., and Walter Slezak, while Esther Howard is a delight as a boarding house owner who realises that a beach is not always the safest place at night.

Although Robert Wise acquitted himself well in his later big budget films, its in films such as this, the aforementioned Set-Up, and his Val Lewton horror classics that he showed himself to be an economic, effective and underrated director. Not in the Howard Hawks league for versatlity,for sure, but he always told a good story well which more highly-touted directors often found beyond them. While not quite major league noir, its one I turn to regularly and it never disappoints


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