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aka - Lady Of Deceit
USA 1947
Directed by
Robert Wise
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Born To Kill

Although released in the UK as Lady Of Deceit, the title with which it usually appears on late night television here, the American title, Born To Kill is far more apt. Lawrence Tierney plays Sam Wilde, a sociopath who flies into a murderous rage at the slightest challenge to his amour propre. He also happens to be handsome and an all-round he-man. So, in a reverse scenario to the usual film noir storyline when divorcée Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) meets him she falls for his tough guy demeanour and a spiral of fascination begins that will be her undoing.

Drawing on the tradition established by such classics as Double Indemnity (1944) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) with their juxtaposition of sex and violence, as so often is the case with late runners there is a mechanical quality to the film which lacks either dramatic conviction or plot credibility (primarily with respect to the blink-and-you'd-miss-it romance between Sam and Helen’s half-sister Georgia which leads to a marriage to which no-one raises an eyebrow). But what does make it worthwhile are the performances from the two leads: Tierney exudes brute masculinity whilst Trevor matches him in cold depravity, with one extraordinary scene having them fall into a passionate embrace after discussing a murder. An incongruously cast Elisha Cook Jr has one of his most prominent roles as Sam’s curiously obliging best friend.

FYI: Interestingly the beer-loving Mrs Kraft character here, who initiates all the trouble by hiring a private detective, recalls the gin-drinking Ida Arnold from Graham Greene's 1938 novel, Brighton Rock, which was also released as a film in 1947.

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