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USA, 1947 (MIFF 1995, Robert Wise Tribute)

Director: Robert Wise

Intensely cold, blood-curdling and emotionally spare, Born To Kill is knockout noir. A grim and at times complicated picture, it features a youth­ful Lawrence Tierney as a near-robotic patholog­ical murderer. Sam Wild (Tierney) is a former boxer and roustabout who has arrived in Reno on a gambling trip with his pal. Marty Sam is tightly wound, alternately morose and cruel, and motivated by a narrow and brutal moral code. Marty, behaving curiously like a dutiful wife, is constantly required to coddle the easily inflamed Sam and soothe his violent rages.

Marty becomes jealous but resigned and stili vigilant when Sam becomes involved with a pair of sisters. Georgia represents the spirited but ulti­mately obedient and submissive stereotype Sam thinks he wants to wed; Helen is the unwhole­some, twisted and perverse mirror of Sam's own personality that he unconsciously craves.

Shot in the corners and shadows of a neon-lit city custom designed for indulging sin Born To Kill indicates Robert Wise's gift for profoundly clever character analysis couched in seemingly typical examples of genre film. Although tense, armrest-gripping stuff the film has tremendous depth and clarity. An arresting experience, this is the kind of of innovative study of the icy logic of the stone killer that would not be fully realised until In Cold Blood (1967) and Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1987).

See also...


USA, 1948
... ... Robert Wise was winding up his working rela­tionship with Howard Hughes' RKO studio by 1948 when he directed B!ood On The Moon, a film he considered his "first big feature." He took Luke … More »


USA/UK, 1963
... ... After seating the ambitious heights of West Side Story (1961) and steering star vehicles like Two For The Seesaw (1962), Robert Wise's 1963 version of Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of … More »


USA, 1949
Director Robert Wise's ninth feature in five years, after a lengthy apprenticeship in the editing department, The Set Up was also his last at RKO. ... The film started life as a poem by Joseph Mancur… More »


USA, 1961
... ... "With West Side Story, suddenly i became a musical director." ... ... ... Robert Wise drew upon all his directorial resources in this leap to yet another genre, and with his collaborator, cho… More »


USA, 1944
... ... At the beginning of an era of trashy B-horror and sci-fi, Wise attached himself to sound features with intellectually satisfying metaphoric bases, remarkable visual aesthetics and intrigu­… More »

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