Original vs. Remake: A Kiss Before Dying

It’s Original vs. Remake time. This month’s movie is A Kiss Before Dying. As usual, I’ll do the 1956 original. Tiffany A. White will do the 1991 remake this coming Friday.

Let’s go…

The Basics



A money-obsessed college student murders his pregnant girlfriend out of fear her rich father will disinherit her. Then, he goes on to woo her sister, still in hopes of infiltrating the same wealthy family.

The Film

The film is based on the 1953 novel by Ira Levin (who also wrote Rosemary’s Baby). The plot of the novel and the movies are very similar, although the novel featured a third rich sister. The novel is a good one. If you want more critical commentary than that, Stephen King discussed it in Chapter 9 of Danse Macabre.

Robert Wagner played Bud Corliss, the murderer.  Robert was in his mid-twenties at the time of filming. I never realized he was that good looking. But he was.

The female cast of the film was equally impressive.

Joanne Woodward, in one of her first film roles, played the doomed rich daughter.

Mary Astor (remember her from the Maltese Falcon?) played Bud’s clueless and doting mother.

Virginia Leith played the second rich daughter on whom Bud sets his sights. I mention her because horror fans might remember her as the decapitated head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

The film was directed by Gerd Oswald, whose television credits included shows such as Bonanza, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek. 

The cinematography was done by Lucien Ballard. Critics have compared the film’s cinematography to Touch of Evil and praised the style used to build suspense

My Thoughts

I had never seen the original version of this film before Tiffany and I agreed to use it for Original vs. Remake. It was a pleasant surprise.

As mentioned above the cinematography is very well done. The story–even though I had read the novel and seen the 1991 remake–felt fresh. The acting was superb.

The only complaint I had was the overpowering orchestra music. I thought many of the more subtly frightening moments were dampened by that loud music.

Should you see it? If you like noir or psychological thrillers, yes. Even if you’ve seen the remake or read the novel, do watch this movie. It’s memorable.

If you have Netflix streaming, the  movie is free to stream. Otherwise, it’s $2.99 to stream and $13 to buy the DVD on Amazon. If you’d prefer to watch in HD, iTunes rents it for $3.99 and sells it for $17.99.

Until next time, take care and be sure your food is actually food. Don’t forget to check out Tiffany’s thoughts on the 1991 remake of A Kiss Before Dying.


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