Monday, May 7, 2018

Kiss The Blood Off My Hands (1948) Robert Newton Sleeps With The Fishes

An American film noir directed by Norman Foster noted for noirs (Journey Into Fear (1942), and Woman on the Run (1950)).

Foster, who started out a s a cub reporter turned actor later focused on directing. He helmed six of the eight 20th Century Fox Mr. Moto detective series films starring Peter Lorre. He also directed two of the Charlie Chan detective films, and Scotland Yard (1941).

This film was written by Leonardo Bercovici, Ben Maddow, and Walter Bernstein, with additional dialog by Hugh Gray. It was based on a book by English novelist Gerald Butler. The impressive cinematography was by Russell Metty (Whistle Stop (1946), The Stranger (1946), Ride the Pink Horse (1947), The Raging Tide (1951), Naked Alibi (1954), Touch of Evil (1958)). The music was by Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound (1945), Double Indemnity (1944)).

The film was produced by Norma Productions which was Burt Lancaster's company. It was their first film.

Staring Joan Fontaine (Ivy (1947)) as Jane Wharton, Burt Lancaster (seven Classic Noir) as William Earle "Bill" Saunders,  Robert Newton (Odd Man Out (1947), The Hidden Room (1949)),  as Harry Carter, Lewis L. Russell as Tom Widgery, Aminta Dyne as Landlady, Grizelda Harvey as Mrs. Paton, Jay Novello as the Sea Captain of the Pelicano.   
Post war London. The waterfront. Though it's not London at all, in reality shot entirely on the Universal back lot, with some stock London footage thrown in. Griffith Park is filling in for a country picnic shot and it's zoo (filling in for the London Zoo) and a race track sequence are the films only on location shots. Houses with occasional scaffolding and cross beam supports indicate the city is rebuilding after years of war.

Harry Carter (Newton) tickling the ivories
Bill Saunders (Lancaster) is a Canadian ex POW living in London. Suffering from what we call now PTSD, his personality has a hair trigger that can explode into violence at slight provocations. In his cups at The Anchor & Dolphin Pub at closing time, Bill is hunched over the bar.

Bill Saunders (Lancaster)
The Anchor & Dolphin looks like a local dive where the low company hang. At an upright piano is Harry Carter (Newton), a shady character who seems to fit right in with the crowd. The pub's owner, annoyed that Sanders hasn't moved, gives him a nudge to get out. Sanders reacts viciously. A fight erupts. The result is the owner on the floor dead, the back of his head bashed in by falling upon the buttressed piano leg. Harry Carter witnessed the whole thing.

arm grab
The dead pub owner

witness to murder
Saunders panicked, rams through a couple of men blocking his way at the door and out into the foggy night. He's pursued by some of the lingering patrons and eventually a couple of bobbies that the crowd attracts. Saunders through his own agility, manages to scamper up a scaffolding and into an open second story window.

the flight

Jane Warton (Fontaine)
The window puts Bill into Jane Warton's (Joan Fontaine) bedroom. He is momentarily stunned. When she begins to wake Bill grabs her and places his hand over her mouth. He tells her he won't hurt her if she remains quiet. She agrees and he lets her loose. Jane believes his story that he was running away from a fight. She is a nurse at a The Mary Wilson Institute a sort of medical clinic.  After she leaves for work he studies her things he notices a photograph of an RAF officer.

Bill slips out after dark mugs a pedestrian stealing his wallet with money and ration booklets. He buys himself a new suit of clothes. Checks himself into a "bed and breakfast" Hotel.


He visits her at the institute the next day. She at first is standoffish and threatens to call a cop. He continues to be persistent. He follows her to the zoo. She's cool, he's hot, and eventually they warm to each other. They date. So Jane and Bill basically get it on. Into this nice rosy idyllic relationship slithers Harry Carter. When Bill and Jane go out for a day at the races Bill is spotted by Carter, who follows them back on the London train. Carter spying Bill having a smoke out in the passageway tells Bill he has a little proposition for him. Bill declines.

a proposition
Bill back in their compartment has a flare up with a fellow train passenger over a card trick, He knocks him out. Jane pulls the emergency brake and Bill and Jane run out of the train. Jane is frightened of Bills vicious flare up, and tells him that she doesn't want to see him again. After Jane splits Bill gets into another fight with a bobby. He's sentenced to a flogging and six months for the two crimes.

the fight in the train compartment

Jane and Bill parting company

socking a cop

model prisoner

When Bill's let out he runs into Cater at a pool hall. Carter asks him if he's low on dough, tells him he's got a scam going with petrol coupons and there's a tidy sum in it if he wants in. Bill just wants to make a bankroll and blow. Carter gives him his address.

Lovesick Bill next wanders over to Jane's flat and sees her coming home from work. She tells him that she tried to see him but only relatives were allowed that privilege. Bill tells her that he thought about her every day. Jane asks him what he's going to do. He says, head back to Canada for a new start. She tells him that they need a lorry driver at the institute. Jane, through friends at the institute, gets him the job driving supplies to various satellite clinics.

Carter again pops into the picture. He blackmails Bill with a threat. Carter declares that he wont inform the coppers of his identity in regards to the pub murder if he'll agree to hijack a load of penicillin during one of his delivery runs. They'll make it look like Bill was innocent by roughing him up a bit. Bill decides to do it and the plans are made. The night of the fake hijack, however, Joan decides to tag along to keep Bill company on the long run, so to keep Jane out of it, he cancels the job.

Bill nixing the job

Carter and his goons are not happy. Carter goes to visit Jane at her apartment, tells her about Bill killing a man at the Anchor & Dolphin, he threatens her physically and things get nasty. Jane grabs her scissors and stabs Carter. Jane, thinking she's killed him, heads out into the night and right into Noirsville.


Bill and Captain of the Pelicano (Jay Novello)

This is a nice moody, studio bound noir. It has enough UK actors top loaded in the cast that along with its rat warren-ish sets and stagecraft the film convincingly portrays a very dark, damp, foggy London. The film in Russel Metty's capable hands looks marvelous, the blacks are inky. It has well directed fight and foot chase scenes. Both Lancaster and Fontaine are good, though this viewer didn't really detect any genuine on screen sparks between the two. Robert Newton pretty much steals all the scenes he's in, he's delightfully sleazy in that menacingly politely English sort of way. If you've just seen his pirate films this will be an eye opener.  I wish he'd made even more noirs. Screen caps are from a DVDr of an old AMC cablecast, and they still look great. 7/10


  1. I am still trying to track this down. I've heard a lot of good about it. Nice screenshots of the photography.

  2. I have it cramed with three other films on a homemade DVDr, it still looks pretty good.