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LAWRENCE TIERNEY CINEMA FORTIES FILM NOIR 'BORN TO KILL'

Year of Release: 1947
For better or worse, BORN TO KILL is the epitome of Film Noir. All to love and hate about the genre is here: the shadows, the melodrama, the erupting musical score, the love-struck, the love-wary, the gross (much too lucky snoop Walter Slezak), the beautiful (Claire Trevor), the hammy (Esther Howard, begging to be killed), the classy (Philip Terry) and, of course, the viciously vile...

BornToScore: ***
Enter Lawrence Tierney as a killer aptly named Sam Wild — and the only thing truly worthwhile: During scenes as our proverbial shark glides within a lavish goldfish bowl... with actors and actresses brimming with boundless stage-like energy... one thing becomes abundantly clear: this man, personifying the film's title, isn't messing around. Only there's not enough vent for the ventilator...

Tierney, with his usual understated, timeless acting style, seems like an intruder on the wrong set: as if he's waiting for everyone (except Elisha Cook Jr. as a fellow ex-con) to relax a bit. Perhaps if it were made twenty years later, anti-hero-villain Tierney would've had more to do (and more to murder). Then again, the handsomely detailed time-capsuled aspects of this striking 1940's previously-neglected gem, studiously directed by former editor Robert Wise, makes BORN TO KILL, in its own unique way, a plush and cerebral, intoxicating journey: Only it needed more of the snake and less of the garden.
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