Review: ‘A Kiss Before Dying’

Played with a satirical edge, this update on the pulpy 1956 thriller about a murderous social climber might have been good for a chill and a hoot, but played straight it's a real clunker.

Played with a satirical edge, this update on the pulpy 1956 thriller about a murderous social climber might have been good for a chill and a hoot, but played straight it’s a real clunker.

Based on Ira Levin’s novel, director James Dearden’s script gives us a brooding, wounded nobody (Matt Dillon) who grew up next to the Pennsylvania railroad tracks, obsessed with the fortunes of the local industrial magnate (Max von Sydow) whose Carlsson Copper cars rumble down the tracks. At college he gets involved with the magnate’s daughter, Dory (Sean Young), but throws her over (a ledge, that is) when he learns she is pregnant.

He then moves to New York and gets involved with her twin, social worker Ellen (Young again), passing himself off as her type and eventually marrying her and getting a job as right-hand man to von Sydow. The only problem is Ellen’s relentless interest in her sister’s unsolved murder.

Young, in a blandly uncommitted perf, connects not at all with Dillon’s hunky young beau, and the two of them seem a cardboard couple, going through the paces of a false life. Not even their explicit sex scenes add excitement.

A Kiss Before Dying

Production

Initial. Director James Dearden; Producer Robert Lawrence; Screenplay James Dearden; Camera Mike Southon; Editor Michael Bradsell; Music Howard Shore; Art Director Jim Clay

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Matt Dillon Sean Young Max von Sydow James Russo Diane Ladd Martha Gehman

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