Kid Glove Killer (1942)


Fred Zinnemann

Cinematography by

Paul Vogel
Crime lab expert Gordon McKay uses the latest forensic techniques to solve murders in a city plagued by political corruption and mob rackets.

First Feature for Fred Zinnemann

4 May 2013 | by wes-connors (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Voters elect to “clean up crime” by electing Samuel S. Hinds (as Richard Daniels) mayor of a small city. Gangsters strike back immediately by murdering his district attorney. The homicide is investigated by forensics expert Van Heflin (as Gordon McKay) and his attractive assistant Marsha Hunt (as Jane Mitchell).


She provides Mr. Heflin with most of his cigarettes. A likely couple, they say “match me” instead of “got a light?” Special prosecutor and crime-busting radio show host Lee Bowman (as Gerald “Jerry” Ladimer) is also on the hunt. In a “love triangle” subplot that adds tension later on, both men are attracted to Ms. Hunt…

As a car-hop, young Ava Gardner asks if anyone wants desert. Things heat up when the mayor is also murdered. In a “best supporting actor” role, sweating restaurant owner Eddie Quillan (as Eddie Wright) is accused. We know who the real killer is and who could be the next victim. This was a good feature length debut for director Fred Zinnemann. Before the car bomb, one of the characters says, “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” which has no connection to The Beach Boys’ song. However, the phrases “Don’t Worry Baby” and “I Get Around” fairly quickly follow. God only knows if Brian Wilson was jotting down song titles while watching.

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****** Kid Glove Killer (4/17/42) Fred Zinnemann ~ Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman, Eddie Quillan

B movie from an A director

Author: blanche-2 from United States
24 December 2006

Van Heflin is a forensics man trying to solve a couple of murders in “Kid Glove Killer,” a 1942 MGM film also starring Marsha Hunt and Lee Bowman. As in “The Grand Central Murder,” it’s Heflin’s performance that puts this film across, though this time he is aided by the lovely Marsha Hunt as his assistant, whom he calls “Mitchell.” Lee Bowman plays a crooked politician pretending to be a good guy, and as a result, he’s eager to see an innocent man put away for murder.


He also is after the aforementioned Mitchell, who is waiting around for Heflin to make a move. Hunt’s role is somewhat dated (or maybe not) – she’s on her way to becoming a good forensics person, but says that the job is not for a woman and she wants to get married. Evidently that will put an end to her career.

Heflin was an interesting actor who could do character roles and leads. This film was made around the time of his breakthrough role in “Johnny Eager,” after which he hung up his B movie mantle and moved on to bigger things. He always brought wry humor and subtle characterizations to his roles as well as excellent timing. Lee Bowman was a mustached actor who looked like he came from the Warren William era. He’s solid but not terribly exciting. Hunt brings warmth and sparkle to her role.

There was, in my opinion, a major problem with the plot having to do with Heflin testing to find particles in the hair of various suspects some time after the crime – wouldn’t the particles have come out when they washed their hair? You really end up thinking no one ever took a shower.

Nice beginning for Zinnemann, who would go on to direct some big features such as “High Noon.”

bad guy

Mind If I Vacuum Your Head?

Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
19 March 2011

No need to recap the plot. It’s a slick, efficient little crime drama from a studio that didn’t much care for that B-movie genre (MGM). On one hand, there’s no mystery— we know the culprit from the outset; neither is there much atmosphere— it’s microscopes instead of dark streets and shadowy men; while the story itself is pretty shopworn— best friends on different sides of the law angling for the same girl. On the plus side, however, are the colorful characters and some nice touches.


Note, for example, how rather unlikable Heflin’s criminologist is, always bossing poor Hunt around and slyly demeaning her—not the way a force for good is expected to act. But he’s all business even as her confused heart wavers. Hunt is perfect as the educated lab assistant, attractive and perky, without being annoying. And Bowman looks and acts like the charming fixer, even if his Jekyll and Hyde is something of a stretch.

The business with the cigarettes both defines the Heflin-Hunt relationship and adds character color. It’s an efficient touch that also has a surprisingly clever payoff. Then there’s that jumbo vacuum that sucks the hair off your head and may also be a lethal weapon not found at the local barbershop. All in all, it’s a fine cast and an ace director all of whom would soon go on to bigger and better things. Fortunately they left behind this slick little 70-minute diversion.


Wasted talent

Author: samhill5215 from United States
2 October 2010

Here’s yet another of those pre-WWII silly attempts at serious film making. Given it’s relatively high rating and its headliners, Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt, I was expecting much more. Unfortunately I was highly disappointed. To begin with, the plot about forensic scientists Heflin and Hunt solving a high profile murder on what at least to me seems as extremely weak evidence is pretentious. Moreover it’s convenient when the murderer shows up to collect the evidence thereby sealing his guilt. If at least that part of it had been more believable! But the producers had to throw in sexual politics typical of the 40s: a woman scientist who just wants to get married despite the fact she has a master’s degree. With that as her paramount ambition she’s willing to settle for anyone, even someone she just met.
How unfortunate! This could have been a much better film if the forensic evidence alone had been better. And it would have been even better if Heflin and Hunt had an adult instead of a contrived relationship. What a waste! The only bright spot was a brief, uncredited appearance by Ava Gardner as a car hop in her eighth film.

Not bad

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
10 September 2002

Zinnemann’s first film is definitely a B feature. Any movie that has Van Heflin as the lead and Lee Bowman and Marsha Hunt in support has got to be a B. (Hunt was later to fall afoul of anti-communist forces in Hollywood and her career, such as it was, was over, despite her cutely upsloped nose.)


It’s basically a police vs. racketeers story, but the police work is done behind the scenes in a lab called “Crime Laboratory” on the door. Everything Jack Webb does in “He Walked By Night,” Van Heflin does here, except that he is the chief focus of the movie rather than an occasionally consulted expert source. In fact, come to think of it, he does some pretty amazing things in that lab. I’ll bet HE wouldn’t have made a hash of the scientific evidence in the O. J. Simpson case! Bowman parades around as an ambitious racket buster but is in reality a sneaky murderer.


You can tell because he has that kind of mustache. Exemplifying the Peter Principle, he finds his level of incompetence as an actor here. Van Heflin, on the other hand, turns in an interesting characterization, laconic and intense at the same time, keeping his assistant Hunt at a distance with his ironic smile and refusal to take her seriously. Heflin seems to me a largely underrated actor. He has considerable range, from modest and loving and a bit dull (“Shane”) to cynical and brutal (“They Came to Cordura”) and believable in any case.


The movie spends as much time on the triangle involving Heflin, Hunt, and Bowman as it does on the crime theme itself, and not to its detriment. The script is evocative in its datedness. One can become a celebrity by being an effective radio speaker. Everybody smokes freely and uses paper matches. Women’s fashions look hideous. The black telephones have rotary dials. Heflin mixes some potions together and they bubble over with vapor from the dry ice in the container. (Heflin sets the ominously gurgling glass in front of Bowman and says, “Wait till I get the reagent.” “Bring two straws,” says Bowman.) Ava Gardner has a few lines as a carhop. Robert Blake is seen briefly as a dark-eyed boy leaning over into the front seat of a car.


Zinnemann was a nervous wreck when the movie was first shown. It was a small audience consisting of Louis B. Mayer and his stooges. Before the film was finished, someone entered and whispered to Mayer and after a flurry of activity they rose and walked out of the showing. Zinnemann was certain his goose was cooked. But in fact Mayer had just received news that Carol Lombard had been killed in an airplane crash and, whatever feelings he might have had about Lombard, he could be certain that the event would impact on Clark Gable, Lombard’s loving husband and one of MGM’s biggest stars. The movie isn’t worth much analysis because there really isn’t much to it. But I kind of enjoyed it.


Good “B” Movie

Author: fwdixon from United States
9 April 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Van Heflin is miscast (IMO) as a forensic criminologist trying to solve the murder of the anti-corruption mayor. Marsha Hunt is the love interest and his assistant. Lee Bowman plays the ambitious young attorney who helped get the mayor elected. As the film starts, the crime-busting mayor and DA had just gotten elected and the mayor is thanking Bowman. Cut to the next scene where Bowman secretly meets with crime kingpin and political fixer John Litel and arranges the murder of the DA. After the DA’s body is found, Heflin uses forensics to find the killer and Bowman is made a “Special Investigator” who also make fatuous crime busting appearances on the radio!


But the mayor figures out that Bowman is crooked, call him into his office and tells him he plans to launch an investigation the very next day. Of course, he’s signed his own death warrant and Bowman plants a bomb in the mayor’s car that blows him to kingdom come the next morning. Beanery owner Eddie Quillen gets picked up for the murder and Bowman uses his influence to screw him even more. Meanwhile, Bowman is romancing Marsha Hunt and she foolishly keeps tipping him to everything that Van Heflin figures out. Pretty soon Heflin uncovers evidence of Bowman’s guilt and, of course, Hunt unwittingly tips him off. It all come to a head when Bowman goes gunning for Heflin at his laboratory. A pretty good fight ensues and Bowman is subdued and arrested. A sappy added on final scene has Heflin proposing (successfully of course) to Marsha Hunt.

kid killer

I really enjoyed this movie. The script is good, the pacing brisk and the acting, while certainly not Oscar worthy, was pretty darn good. Plenty of familiar 30s/40s character actors are on hand too. Anyhoo, Van Heflin, although he gives a journeyman performance, is hard for me to accept as a “good guy”. He always plays morally questionable characters much better. I feel the roles of Heflin and Bowman should have been switched. My “B” Movie Meter: 8* out of 10*

car crash


30 October 2000 | by KuRt-33 ( (Antwerp, Belgium) – See all my reviews

The category for this movie might be ‘mystery’, the plot however certainly isn’t. Within the first five minutes of the film you found out that Jerry is corrupt and you meet McKay, the man who’ll certainly solve the crime. This makes you wonder why the movie would be interesting.

Still, like most of Hitchcock’s features, it’s not what the movie is about, it’s what you do with the plot that makes the movie. Zinneman’s first is quite good for a debut: the film is sober but effective. The relation between McKay and his female assistant Mitchell is more interesting than 95% of the working relations you normally get to see. McKay’s forensic quest is quite interesting too.

Bear in mind that it’s a debut and watch a very nice film.

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