BORN TO KILL. RKO Radio Pictures, 1947. Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Isabel Jewell, Esther Howard. Screenplay: Eve Greene & Richard Macaulay, based on the novel Deadlier Than the Male, by James Gunn. Director: Robert Wise.

   Do you know what? If you were to put Lawrence Tierney into a tuxedo about to marry a wealthy socialite of the caliber of Georgia Staples (Audrey Long), he’d still look like Lawrence Tierney. One of the premises of this story is that bad guys like Sam Wilde (a very appropriate last name) can be irresistible to women, no matter how much money and common sense they are supposed to have.

   Another premise is that women can be as cold-blooded and filled with ice in their hearts as men can. The title of the film could also apply just as well to Georgia’s sister Helen (Claire Trevor), except she never kills anyone. But Sam does. When a girl he is going with in Reno (Isabel Jewell) decides to make him a little jealous by going out with another guy (Tony Barrett), the two of them end up dead.

   But Helen, accidentally stumbling over their bodies, doesn’t turn a hair. She calmly evaluates the situation, decides she doesn’t need to become involved, and calls for a ticket on a train out of town. Although just divorced, she has a wealthy suitor waiting for her back in San Francisco. She has met Sam in a casino, however, and now again on the train, and if sparks ever really fly in this movie, it is then.

   It is quite an opening, and considering that this movie was made in 1947, I am sure it was quite unique at the time. Unfortunately, and it is here that I may be going heretical on you, but the middle of the film falls to the depths of an almost frothy soap opera. (I did say almost.)

   Only the presence of a scoundrel of a private eye (most excellently played by Walter Slezak) hired by the dead girl’s landlady (Esther Howard), having followed Helen and Sam to San Francisco and snooping around, is there to remind us what a hardboiled crime film it is that we have been watching all along. (Plus of course Lawrence Tierney’s glowering presence in every scene he’s in.)

   This is good film, in my opinion, but not a great one. I think that all of the characters in this film are over the top, some more than others. Personally I stopped believing in it when Claire Trevor walks over the dead bodies without the batting of an eyelash, but I didn’t mind one iota, I’ve decided, in happily going along for the ride.