Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

Released Oct. 30, 1948: KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS, starring Joan Fontaine, Burt Lancaster, and Robert Newton. Directed by Norman Foster (Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation, Journey Into Fear, Woman on the Run). Lancaster plays a former WWII soldier living a meager existence in post-war London. Scarred emotionally and psychologically from his experiences as a POW, he is a brooding loner with a hair-trigger temper. KissTheBloodOffMyHandsDuring a violent outburst, he accidentally kills the proprietor of a pub and subsequently breaks into Fontaine’s apartment to hide from the police. Fontaine tolerates his presence and doesn’t alert the police when the opportunity presents itself. Lancaster leaves the next day, but can’t forget her kind gesture. Eventually he seeks her out again, and after some persistence, they begin spending time together, but complications arise in the form of a shady criminal (Robert Newton) who witnessed Lancaster kill the pub owner and tries to use this as leverage. First off, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands has got to be one of the best titles of any classic noir film. However, the film doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its evocative name. After the initial scene in which the pub owner is killed and Lancaster is chased through the streets, the film simmers down considerably. More than half the story is devoted to Lancaster trying to befriend Fontaine, which is fine, but it’s not what we’re setup to expect given the lurid title and thrilling opening sequence. The intensity ratchets up again in the last third of the movie, but just as things reach a fever pitch, the story hastily wraps up with a mild, lukewarm ending. But all is not lost. Strong performances are what save the day, which comes as no surprise given the talented cast. Lancaster’s character is menacing and intense, but he’s portrayed with a frail underlying vulnerability that makes him immediately sympathetic. Newton does a superb job creating the scariest type of villain – a disarmingly cordial everyman who will turn on you with vicious ferocity the minute you cross him. Fontaine shines as only she can; restrained, empathetic, with a heart of gold. This film also looks great. The dark foggy streets and heavy use of shadows and backlit silhouettes are stereotypically film noir, and they work perfectly here. Despite the uneven pacing, there’s enough progression in the story and characters to keep the viewer engaged. We give Kiss the Blood Off My Hands 3.5 out 5 fedoras.

3.5 Fedoras

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