Director: Norman Foster
By Marilyn Ferdinand
Regardless of the bone-chilling climate, February 26 marked a joyful (if in all probability momentary) return of the Northwest Chicago Movie Society to the Patio Theater. The theater’s 87-year-old boiler was returned to life, and although it wasn’t as much as conserving us toasty heat in sub-zero climate, no one appeared to thoughts—it was simply nice to collect with outdated associates and different basic movie followers to see one other of the uncommon movies on movie NCFS makes a speciality of exhibiting at an appropriately classic movie show.
After paying tribute to Harold Ramis, who died this week, by exhibiting the trailers for Ghostbusters (1984) and Groundhog Day (1993), NCFS fired up a brief movie about motorbike racing within the British Isles to coordinate with the primary attraction, a romance/noir hybrid set in London—the luridly, however not inappropriately named Kiss the Blood Off My Arms. This movie was the primary Burt Lancaster made below the aegis of Harold Hecht-Norma Productions, the unbiased manufacturing firm he began solely two years after his star-making debut in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946) to capitalize on his personal recognition.
Lancaster’s firm in a few totally different incarnations would produce some wonderful films, together with Finest Image Oscar winner Marty (1955), Candy Odor of Success (1957), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). One solely has to look again to the corporate’s first movie to see that Lancaster had greater than appearing capacity and charisma—he knew methods to make nice footage.
In true noir trend, Kiss the Blood Off My Arms zeroes in on a broken World Struggle II veteran whose precarious postwar existence virtually inevitably collides with crime and violence. The movie opens in a pub that’s closing for the night time. The patrons dutifully file out, save for petty prison Harry Carter (Robert Newton) and a nervous, drunk Invoice Saunders (Lancaster). When the publican (Campbell Copelin) tries to awaken Saunders from his place on the bar, Saunders reacts violently.
He punches the publican, who falls, hits his head, and dies. A scream from the barmaid (Marilyn Williams) sends Saunders operating. He eludes a policeman who offers chase by climbing right into a flat occupied by hospital employee Jane Wharton (Joan Fontaine). A former inmate in a Nazi POW camp, he’d relatively die than be locked up once more, and when Jane doesn’t flip him within the subsequent day, he feels protected for the primary time in a very long time. She feels drawn to him, too, however naturally, Saunders’ crime, nonetheless unintentional, will solid a shadow over their relationship and result in violent penalties.
In some ways, Kiss the Blood Off My Arms has a predictable set-up, however it’s shot via with surprises. After all Carter comes seeking to blackmail Invoice. After all Jane rejects Invoice when his impulsive violence pops out, and naturally she takes him again. However I used to be genuinely shocked by a number of the scenes. For instance, Invoice is way more vicious and immoral than I anticipated. He mugs a person for his pockets and makes use of the stolen ration coupons to get some new garments so he can name on Jane, a stunning contact of plot and character that doesn’t really feel pressured. His assault on a passenger on a practice he and Jane are taking and subsequent assault on a police officer are sudden and cruel, however his punishment—six months exhausting labor and 18 lashes with a cat o’ 9 tails—drew a literal gasp out of me. The lashing was a really troublesome scene to look at and jogged my memory that postwar England was not thus far forward of the medieval tortures for which the nation has lengthy been notorious.
I used to be additionally shocked that after Invoice “goes straight” as a driver of a medical provide truck, he agrees to let Carter arrange a theft of the provides in change for conserving Invoice’s secret. In a earlier scene, Invoice noticed how the provides stopped an epidemic, however his private survival at all times comes first.
Whereas clearly shot primarily on a soundstage, the evocation of the bodily environment and temper of postwar London is fairly life like. It’s a world of ration books and black market buying and selling, damaged buildings and ongoing reduction efforts, grieving widows and shell-shocked veterans. Seasoned DP Russell Metty, who would assist create the look of Douglas Sirk’s well-known Technicolor melodramas of the 1950s, paints a basic noir panorama of darkish corners, slender alleys, and menacing close-ups. When Invoice and Jane go to the zoo on their inconceivable first date, Metty switches from an open, comfortable assortment of boys mimicking a chimpanzee in a cage to a keeper feeding a ravenous lion. The digicam strikes swiftly from one caged predator to a different, whereas Invoice grows extra anxious by the minute.
The pacing, abetted by movie editor Milton Carruth, is sort of a sudden eclipse of the solar, offering a hard-to-evoke frame of mind for the troubled man that lasts all through the movie. This sequence is echoed later within the movie when Jane joins Invoice in psychic ache, wandering the streets in a daze, every nook harboring a menacing face that mirrors the face of the person she stabbed in self-defense.
Those that are in search of a sizzling romance between Invoice and Jane will likely be upset. Though Lancaster can simply play the seducer, his Invoice is a wounded boy. The primary signal we and Jane get of that is on the zoo. Invoice joins the boys in imitating the voice and face of the chimpanzee, a transparent case of arrested improvement.
Though the prolonged chase scene initially of the movie exhibits off Lancaster’s excessive athleticism and power, he at all times appears small and pleading when he’s with Jane. He barely reacts when he climbs in her window and sees her in her nightie, and doesn’t show a manly jealousy when the person on the practice appears to be making an attempt to make time together with his woman. Even when he bemoans how his affect has screwed up Jane’s life, he knew what he was doing in pursuing her; she is a born helpmate.
Fontaine at all times appears to be the woman who wears glasses. In so a lot of her roles, she’s fragile and barely aristocratic, as if her pure lineage has made her weak. As Jane, she falls in love with Invoice’s want for her, his boyish vulnerability. When she leaves her room to get milk the morning after Invoice has damaged in, I half-expected her to place some in her tea and pour a full glass for him.
She is at all times clearly in cost, lastly overriding his survival intuition by making him accompany her as they each flip themselves in, thus kissing the blood off one another’s palms.
Robert Newton is at all times a pleasure, and his ingratiating criminal is penny ante and by no means a match for Invoice within the violence division, although Lancaster by no means lays a glove on him. It was an actual reduction to not see a fiendishly intelligent or super-powered villain, so dully widespread at the moment. Screenwriter Leonardo Bercovici and adapter Ben Maddow had been each to develop into victims of the Hollywood blacklist, and I’ve to suppose that their sympathy for widespread individuals introduced out the vulnerability and sheer ordinariness of those characters. A big solid of bit gamers provides great environment and places some actual flesh on the bones of this situation. Sadly, this movie isn’t out there for house viewing, however maybe you possibly can urge a programmer in your space to e book this pristine 35mm print of an almost forgotten gem.
This movie is now out there on DVD as a part of the Common Vault Collection. I nonetheless suggest seeing the 35mm print in case you can.