Following a hiatus of nearly two months (as well as a seven-week sojourn at the Gene Siskel Film Center), the Northwest Chicago Film Society swings back into action next Wednesday, projecting the lesser-known film noir Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) at the Patio Theater at 7:30 PM. The programming organization plans to screen three more feature films (and, in conjunction with Chicago Film Archives, one program of home movies) over the next two months. Coming soon are: Crime Without Passion (1934), one of the handful of movies on which noted screenwriter (and onetime Chicago journalist) Ben Hecht took a directorial credit, on Wednesday 3/12; Taking Off (1971), Milos Forman’s first American film (and arguably the only one to capture the freewheeling comedy of his Czech features), on Wednesday 4/3; and The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), a pre-Code melodrama starring Ann Dvorak, on Wednesday 4/23.
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, which merits viewing on its lurid title alone, stars Burt Lancaster as a former American POW trying to get by in England in spite of his posttraumatic stress, which causes him to erupt unexpectedly in violence. The recently deceased Joan Fontaine plays a kindhearted nurse who sees the good in him and helps him turn his life around. This being a film noir, though, you can expect that Lancaster doesn’t stay out of trouble for long. The director is Norman Foster, a relatively obscure figure whose most prestigious credit may be Journey Into Fear (1943), an odd little espionage thriller written by and starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten (unfortunately for Foster, many people have assumed that Welles directed it too). Judging from his IMDB page, Foster enjoyed a storied career, entering Hollywood as an actor at the start of the sound era, then shifting to directing with a run of cheap programmers (mostly in the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto franchises). Before making Kiss the Blood, he spent a few years in the Mexican studio system, directing (among other titles) an early vehicle for Ricardo Montalban.
Regardless of Foster’s artistic merit, this movie features Lancaster and Fontaine at the height of their sex appeal, as well as cinematography by the great Russell Metty. Metty would soon work his way up the ladder at Universal, which released Kiss the Blood, and shoot many of Douglas Sirk’s great melodramas for the studio, along with Kubrick’s Spartacus and Welles’s film noir Touch of Evil.