KID GLOVE KILLER. MGM, 1942, Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman, Samuel S. Hinds, Cliff Clark, Eddie Quillan, John Litel, Cathy Lewis. Director: Fred Zinnemann.

   An excellent cast and a future Oacar-winning director’s first feature length film — that’s all it takes for a movie to play out on the screen as if the studio (MGM) had loads of money poured into it when it hadn’t. It may also have the distinction of being the first film in which a police department’s crime lab had a major role in bringing a killer to justice.

   A very young Van Heflin, himself later an Oscar-winner, plays the Gordon McKay, the crusty head of the lab, while Marsha Hunt is his curvaceous new assistant. While nominally trying to solve the murder of the mayor who died when his car exploded when he tried to start it one morning, the banter between the two is near non-stop. One would think they’re attracted to each other, but of course neither of them will admit it.

   The audience knows very early on who the bad egg is, the suitably unctuous Lee Bowman (he was always good in such parts). The fun for the everyone watching, both then and now, is seeing how early forensics slowly narrows in on him, while quietly screaming out a warning to Marsha Hunt’s character when she acts as though she is falling for him, while McKay does his best to pretend to ignore her charms but not fooling anyone for a single minute

   There is a lot of zip to this movie, and not a scene is wasted. There is a lot of smoking in this movie, too, as the two main characters also make an amusing habit of one mooching cigarettes and lights from each other. Given a bit of byplay that a pass as a sign of the times, this one’s a class act, from the director on down.

NOTE: Walter Albert also reviewed this movie on this blog almost eight years ago. Check out his comments here