Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Kid Glove Killer (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

KID GLOVE KILLER (1942) is a very enjoyable crime "procedural" just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt costar as criminalist Gordon McKay and his assistant, chemist Jane Mitchell, who work to solve the murder of their city's mayor.

McKay and Mitchell exchange zippy dialogue and occasionally flirt while they're doing their jobs; Mitchell is attracted to her boss, but also flattered by the attention of Jerry (Lee Bowman), a special prosecutor.

The audience knows "whodunit" at the outset, and the fun is watching the mystery solved. There are some fascinating insights into crime-solving techniques of the day; in that pre-computer age, much time was spent combing through slides, notebooks, and lists searching for matches to samples.

The movie reflects its era in other ways; there's lots of smoking (I've always wondered if it was actually safe in the lab, with all those chemicals!), and there's also talk about whether crime-solving is a "woman's job." I find such things provide an interesting peek at the times the movie was made in, and all in all, it's quite a fun 74 minutes.

This is a movie I first enjoyed on TCM back in 2007. In 2012 I had the pleasure of seeing it at the Noir City Film Festival. Marsha Hunt was present and related that it was director Fred Zinnemann's first feature film.

She told how Zinnemann gathered everyone on the set the first day of filming, telling cast and crew that it was his first film and while he felt ready to direct, he recognized he was a novice on the set and would be glad to listen to anyone's suggestions. She said after his speech the crew would have killed for Zinnemann. She also said that she had very much enjoyed working with both Van Heflin and Lee Bowman.

The cast includes Lee Bowman, Samuel S. Hinds, John Litel, Nella Walker, Cliff Clark, and Eddie Quillan. There's a quick but definite glimpse of Ava Gardner as a car hop, and Robert "Bobby" Blake can also be seen for a few seconds.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Great that you have reviewed this fine little noir, Laura. I believe I am correct in saying this is a film Colin has yet to see - worth splashing out for, Colin!

I first saw this film in that ideal format - the big screen - in the 1970s at The National Film Theatre in London and it made quite an impression.

MGM was, of course, not so well-known for B-movies but used them for "trying out" new potential stars and directors, hence early work by both Zinneman and Heflin.

The film crackles with smart dialogue and a good noirish atmosphere and is a very satisfying 'entertainment'.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We screened this delightful film in SF years ago with Marsha Hunt in the house. She had some good stories including a retake of a fight scene between Van Heflin and Lee Bowman when both their toupees came off!

1:31 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

This is a fun one, like you I enjoy seeing all the hard work that went into forensics (such as they were). It seemed impossible to put clues together, yet the human element in an investigation beats a computer sometimes.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, it's wonderful to hear that you got to see this one on a big screen! Agree completely with your take.

What a fun anecdote about the fight scene -- I hadn't heard that one before. Thanks!

Kristina, have you seen Ricardo Montalban and Bruce Bennett in MYSTERY STREET? That's another fun one showing early forensic techniques. Glad you've enjoyed it also!

Best wishes,

10:42 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Yes I like MYSTERY STREET a lot too, if I remember, you called it a pre-CSI or something similar (?). You wonder how they ever solved anything without all our modern tools.

9:48 AM  

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