Born to Kill
"Today's movies usually have so much blood and gore in graphic detail and slow motion, literally rubbing the audience's nose in
Based on the book "Deadlier Than Male"which Wise stumbled upon in the RKO story filesBORN TO KILL had a bigger budget than Wise's previous films. The story of a twisted woman's attraction for a psycopathic murderer precipated criticism from the Production Code, however, who called it "the kind of story which ought not to be made because it is a story of gross lust and shocking brutality, and ruthlessness." To win the approval of the Production Code, RKO cut some of the violence out and stressed the insanity of the main character, played by Lawrence Tierney. It is, as Wise states, tame by today's standards.
After he discovers that Laury
Palmer, the owner of a Reno
boardinghouse, was romancing him only to make her boyfriend
Sam Wilde, a seductive but violent drifter, kills both her and
sophisticated Helen Brent finds the bodies in the boardinghouse,
has been living during her divorce proceedings, but instead
of notifying the
police, she calmly boards the next train to San Francisco.
Also on board the
train is Sam, who begins a rough flirtation with Helen and wisely
that he is "going in the same direction" as she. Although Helen
the ambitious Sam from seeing her in San Francisco, he tracks
her to her half
sister Georgia Staples' mansion and there is introduced to Fred
Helen's wealthy fiance. After Helen tells Georgia about
discovery in Reno, she, Georgia, Fred and Sam dine together.
As soon as he
is alone with Helen, Sam accuses her of wanting to marry Fred
for his money,
and she freely admits that she is tired of playing Georgia's
When Sam smugly insinuates that he could make Helen break
the engagement if
he wanted, she balks, stating firmly that no one can come between
her and the
security of Fred's money. In response, Sam flirts aggressively
impressionable Georgia and, later that night, telephones his
Waterman, in Reno to announce that he will soon be marrying
predicted, Sam becomes engaged to Georgia. He is unaware,
however, that a
private investigator, Albert Arnett, has been hired by Mrs.
alcoholic proprietress of Laury's boardinghouse, to discover
and has tracked Marty to Helen and Georgia's home. After
ceremony, a confused, jealous Helen argues with Sam about her
she both loves and resents, and ends up in his arms. She then
Arnett, who is posing as a hungry vagrant in order to snoop
around the house,
and dismisses his insinuations about Sam's past. A few weeks
later, Sam and
Georgia return home early from their honeymoon, having fought
desire to run the newspaper that Georgia inherited from her
night, Sam finds Helen alone in the kitchen and, after describing
her as his
"soul mate," kisses her passionately. Sam then compliments her
on the calm
way she acted in Reno, and as he begins to describe the murder
detail, Helen realizes that Sam is, in fact, the killer.
telephones Arnett to arrange a meeting, unaware that Sam is
listening in on
the extension. To protect Sam, Helen tries to buy Arnett's silence
$5,000, but he demands $15,000. When Helen returns home,
she is confronted
by a jealous Sam, but finally convinces him that Arnett is only
her money. Sam and Marty plot to kill Mrs. Kraft, who has come
Francisco, but when Marty goes to Helen's bedroom to warn her
violent nature, Sam assumes he is flirting with her and kills
him as he is
about to kill Mrs. Kraft. The next morning, Helen provides
Sam with an alibi
when the police question her about Marty, then tells Mrs. Kraft
she drops her investigation, she will be terrorized and killed.
calls Helen the coldest woman she has ever met, Mrs. Kraft agrees
to end her
pursuit. Later, Helen admits to Sam that she is "doing
it all for him," but
is devastated when Fred finally breaks their engagement.
remorseful Helen then tells Georgia the truth about Sam and
forces her to
eavesdrop while she makes plans with Sam to run away.
Just then, the police,
who have been tipped off by Arnett, arrive at the house, and
Helen has double-crossed him, Sam tries to shoot her.
Helen flees upstairs
and locks herself in a bedroom, but Sam shoots at her through
the door as the
police storm the house. After Sam is shot and killed by
the police, Helen
dies of her wounds.
From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
|92 min. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc; Distributed by: United Artists; Directed by: Robert Wise; Produced by: Herman Schlom; Screenplay by: Eve Greene & Richard Macaulay; Edited by: Les Millbrook; Director of Photography: Robert de Grasse; Music by: Paul Sawtell; Production Design by: Albert S. D'Agostino & Walter E. Keller; Sound by: Robert H. Guhl & Roy Granville; Gowns by: Edward Stevenson.|
|Claire Trevor (Helen Brent), Lawrence Tierney (Sam Wilde), Walter Slezak (Albert Arnett), Phillip Terry (Fred Grover), Audrey Long (Georgia Staples Wilde), Elisha Cook Jr. (Marty Waterman), Isabel Jewell (Laury Palmer), Esther Howard (Mrs. Kraft), Kathryn Card (Grace), Tony Barrett (Danny), Grandon Rhodes (Inspector Wilson), Harry Harvey (Man outside courthouse), Sam Lufkin (Crap dealer), Sayre Dearing (Crap dealer), Sammy Shack (Crap dealer), Joe Dixon (Crap dealer), Ruth Brennan (Sally), Tom Noonan (Card player with Mrs. Kraft), Al Murphy (Cab driver), Phil Warren (Chauffeur), Ben Frommer (Delivery boy), Netta Packer (Mrs. Perth), Lee Frederick (Desk clerk), Demetrius Alexis (Maitre d'), Martha Hyer (Maid), Ellen Corby (Maid), Beatrice Maude (Cook), Jean Fenwick (Margaret Macy), Reverend Neal Dodd (Clergyman), Napolean Whiting (Porter), Perc Launders (Detective Bryson), Stanley Stone (Train conductor), and Jason Robards (Conductor).|