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Kiss the Blood off My Hands
Directed by Norman Foster in 1948, Kiss The Blood Off My Hands opens in a pub in London where a man named Bill Saunders (Burt Lancaster), a former soldier who clearly ‘saw some stuff' during his time in the war, winds up getting into a scrap with a fellow patron and accidently killing the man. There are a couple of witnesses but Bill takes off and hides out in a small apartment nearby until the cops move on. It turns out that this apartment is inhabited by a hospital worker named Jane Warton (Joan Fontaine) and while she's frightened of the intruder, he makes it clear he won't hurt her if she keeps quiet. She does, and he keeps his word. She heads out for work the next morning and he splits, leaving with her lighter.
The next day, when she gets off work, he accosts her in the street to return her lighter and thank her for her help. It's clear he's interested in her and she's equally intrigued by this handsome stranger, and it takes him a bit of convincing but soon enough she's agreed to go out with him the next day. They wind up at a horse race track where she cleans up and he loses a bit. When she goes to collect her winnings, Bill is approached by a man named Harry Carter (Robert Newton), who just so happened to be in the pub when Bill killed that man. Harry tells Bill he's got a job for a man like him, but before he can do anything about it Bill winds up doing a stint in prison for six-months (after getting lashed by a cat o' nine tails!) for assaulting a man on the train ride back home.
With Bill out of prison, Jane can't help but go back to him and she gets him a job as a driver at the hospital where she works. Bill takes to it and seems to like the work, but Harry shows up again and makes it clear that even if Bill is no longer interested in the job, Harry expects him to do it anyway. After all, Bill wouldn't want Harry to speak up about his past…
With a title like Kiss The Blood Off My Hands you'd expect a rough and tumble crime picture, a gritty, hardboiled film that would keep you on the edge of your seat. This isn't that. It is, however, a solid thriller with a strong romantic streak, focusing just as much, if not more, on Bill and Jane's troubled romance as it does on Bill's troubles with Harry. That said, if you don't mind the melodramatic aspects of the storyline, this works quite well. At just under eighty-minutes the movie doesn't overstay its welcome and it moves at a good clip, even if it never quite hits the heights of tension and suspense that you might hope it would.
A big part of what makes this work is the cast. Lancaster (who co-produced as part of Norma Productions) is great as the lead. He's charming enough that we can see why Jane might let her guard down around Bill, but he's also pretty convincing when his character loses his temper, which happens semi-regularly in the film. Likewise, the lovely Joan Fontaine is very good here, believably cast in her part and sharing, if not Earth-shattering chemistry with her co-star, enough of a spark to pull it off. That said, there are moments where Robert Newton really does steal the show. As Harry, he's a creepy, slimy wolf in sheep's clothing, all charm on the surface but with plenty of lecherous menace hiding just underneath.
Production values are quite good here. Foster paces the picture well enough, it never feels to slow, while the cinematography from Russell Metty is gorgeous enough to be reason on its own to want to sit down with this picture, it's ridiculously atmospheric and perfectly shadowy, adding a noirish touch to the visuals that is much appreciated.
Kiss The Blood Off My Hands comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, taking up just under 25GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a ‘new 2k restoration' the picture quality of the black and white picture is impressive. There are a few hair-line scratches noticeable in a few spots but they're so faint you have to be looking for them to notice, otherwise the picture is nice and clean. There's plenty of natural film grain here but the strong bit rate keeps compression artifacts out of the way and there are no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail and clarity are quite strong throughout and there's a good bit of appreciable depth here. Black levels are strong and we get nice contrast. A very strong effort.
The only audio option on for the feature version of the movie is a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English language and it sounds good, properly balanced and affording the score a good bit of depth. Dialogue is clear throughout, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to gripe about. This all sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Film Historian Jeremy Arnold. In this track he covers hwo the romantic relationship is the core of the film, how Joan Fontaine steals the show from Lancaster, how it was received in 1948, the beauty of the visuals in the film, how unusual it is for Lancaster's character not to speak until seven-minutes into the film, the use of high contrast lighting and pools of blackness to build atmosphere and the use of crane shots in the film, the portrayal of fear in terms of how both characters are affected by it, details about the various British character actors that make-up most of the supporting cast, lots of details about Lancaster, Newton and Fontaine, Norman Fosters career and his work on the Peter Lorre/Mr. Moto films and the Charlie Chan films and lots more.
The disc also includes a trailer for the feature and bonus trailers for Desert Fury, Run Silent Run Deep, The Devil's Disciple, The Train and Valdez Is Coming as well as menus and chapter selection.
Kiss The Blood Off My Hands may not live up to the promise of its sensational title but it does prove to be a strong thriller with a decent, if very melodramatic, romantic flair to it. Lancaster, Fontaine and Newton are all very good here and the movie is never lacking in style or atmosphere. Kino's Blu-ray release looks great and sounds just fine, and it throws in an interesting audio commentary as its primary supplement. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.