Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

Burt Lancaster and Joan Fontaine

The title of the movie Kiss the Blood Off My Hands makes a promise that can’t be fulfilled. An attention grabber, even before it had debuted there was talk of changing it, to Blood on My Hands (which is how the film is listed on the IMDb). In some parts of the USA it went out as the even more timid The Unafraid. Dramatic though the original title is, it’s all wrong for a story about an accidental killer and his gal and is more suited to a lurid 1960s shocker or a 1980s video nasty than a 1948 melodrama. It’s the first in a long string of fascinating movies made by Burt … Read more

Sorry, Wrong Number

A fearful Leona on the phone

Sorry, Wrong Number, made in 1948, is a superbly melodramatic drama taking the brittle, “dangerous dame” image of its star, Barbara Stanwyck, for a protracted ride. Four years earlier Stanwyck had starred in Double Indemnity as the manipulative minx persuading poor schmuck Ed McMurray to kill her husband, and here she is in Sorry, Wrong Number as a victim, a bed-ridden rich woman who, on a crossed line while telephoning, overhears two men discussing a murder they’re going to commit later that night. The servants have been given the night off, her husband is away, but Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) isn’t initially that worried. But as the night progresses and as she makes and … Read more

The Leopard

Burt Lancaster as the Prince

The movie-as-oil-painting prize goes to The Leopard, Luchino Visconti’s majestic, magnificent, magical magnum opus from 1963, a contender in all the serious forums for best looking film ever made but also a triumph as an examination of a society, a politics and a psychology in flux. It’s an adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s only novel – a best-seller to this day – and follows it closely. There is no real plot, in other words, more a series of tableaux from the life of a mid-19th-century Sicilian prince as he and his family are buffeted by change, brought about first of all by Garibaldi’s revolutionary Red Shirts, busy unifying Italy (re-unifying, if we’re counting … Read more

The Leopard

kehr articlelarge

Visconti’s masterpiece is one of the best examples of the period epic ever made, a film that makes Merchant/Ivory look like kids messing about with the dressing-up box. It tells of the arrival of democracy in Italy and the decline of the fine old aristocratic way of life, as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic head of an ancient Sicilian family. The shock of this Italian-language movie is the person playing that central role, a mutton-chopped Burt Lancaster, the actor who started life as a circus acrobat. Why was a man more associated with horses and the high wire, a man so often smeared in diesel, playing an aristocrat and standing on … Read more