A Kiss Before Dying
Budd Corliss (Robert Wagner) is an ambitious, poor boy from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks who murders his girlfriend Dorothy (Joanne Woodward) -- making the death look like a suicide -- when her pregnancy eliminates his chances of being accepted by her wealthy family. Her sister Ellen (Virginia Leith), refusing to believe that Dorothy has committed suicide, begins to investigate on her own. She meets Budd, and ignorant of his prior relationship with Dorothy begins a relationship with him. When Ellen discovers that Budd knew Dorothy, the stage is set for a final, dramatic showdown as Ellen fights to revenge her sister and save her own life. The script, adapted from the novel of the same name written by Ira Levin is excellent and tension-filled. Joanne Woodward is fine in a touching performance as the vulnerable and trusting Dorothy. A wooden performance by Robert Wagner in the pivotal central role mars the film and destroys some of its credibility, as Wagner, though handsome, lacks the charm and charisma necessary to make the character of Budd believable. Also, despite an excellent performance by Mary Astor as Budd's class-conscious, greedy mother, the film fails to achieve any sympathy for Budd or understanding of the motivations that drove him to do what he did.