Starring: Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Virginia Leith, Jeffrey Hunter, George Macready, and Mary Astor
Director: Gerd Oswald
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
Sociopath Bud Corliss (Wagner) murders his girlfriend (Woodward) after she becomes pregnant and threatens his plans to gain access to her father's wealth. But when her sister (Leith) begins to investigate, Corliss finds that one murder is not enough if he is to obtain his dream.
"A Kiss Before Dying" is a mystery in the "Columbo" vein, as its more about a killer plotting and covering his tracks than about detectives trying to catch him. It starts out like a relatively straight-forward thriller about a downright evil man on a cheating-, lying-, and killing-spree in pursuit of wealth and domination over others, but there is a twist at about the halfway mark that really makes the film and that will engage all but the most jaded of viewers. It adds a whole new level of nastiness to the already vile character of Bud Corliss.
I've never seen Robert Wagner in a role like this before, and he's great in it. In fact, this is true of the entire cast. Joanne Woodward, as the girl whose pregnancy seals her fate is also remarkable, because her naive, starry-eyed character could so easily have been annoying if portrayed by a lesser actress. Instead, we have sympathy for her almost from outset, because it's clear that she is going to suffer a very nasty fate... and that she will never see it coming.
If you're in the mood for a classic thriller, "A Kiss Before Dying" is 95 minutes well spent.