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Kiss Me Deadly is an absolute joy to watch. There are no big-name stars, the director has never been mentioned in the same breath as a Hitchcock or Huston, and it's basically a simple Mickey Spillane story. How its presented on the screen is the genius of the picture. Right from the opening credit sequence, you know you're in for something fresh and innovative. This is a must see for fans of Quentin Tarantino, and there is a curious box containing a certain substance that glows when opened (Pulp Fiction, anyone?). It is one of the finest of the "film noir" genre, predominantly because of the moody black and white photography and its amazing 'timeless' appeal (I would rank it alongside Touch of Evil). It's great to know the film has been "rediscovered", and be sure to see a copy of the film containing 2 different versions of the mind-boggling final sequence shot at the time.
'Kiss Me Deadly' is an overlooked crime gem that has proved to be a major influence on subsequent film makers from the French New Wave to cult classics 'Repo Man' and 'Pulp Fiction'. It's a movie which gets better and better with age. Director Robert Aldrich manages to put lots of style and interesting touches which sometimes border on the surreal into this toughest of tough guy movies. Ralph Meeker ('Paths Of Glory', 'The Dirty Dozen', 'The Anderson Tapes') is well cast as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Meeker's Hammer is brutal and his performance really makes this one work. The supporting cast are all very good too, especially Albert Dekker ('The Wild Bunch') as Dr Soberin and Maxine Cooper as Hammer's "assistant" Velda. Also keep an eye out for the debut of Cloris Leachman is the striking opening sequence. The "great whatsit" which Hammer searches for is one of the great movie gimmicks, and the ending will blow you away - literally. I loved this movie from beginning to end. I think it ranks alongside 'Out Of The Past' (Tourneur), 'The Asphalt Jungle' (Huston), 'Double Indemnity' (Wilder), 'The Killing' (Kubrick) and 'The Killers (Siegel)' as one of the greatest and most influential American crime movies, and I'm sure Scorcese and Tarantino would be the first to agree. Highly recommended.
Man, I saw this movie for the first time a few years ago and I still don't
know what to think about it. Ralph Meeker as a fascistic Mike Hammer, a
crazy hitch-hiker, an opera fan and a box that can destroy the world. I
From what I understand Alderitch (the director) hated Mikey Spillane's story (which was about a briefcase full of drugs or money or something else), thought Mike Hammer was an image of brutality and fascism and made a film that reflected it. He makes Hammer out to be some kind of sadist and makes the suitcase out be some kind of nuclear device. The movie turns from a simple detective story to some wierd-ass, sci-fi cold war parable.
It's sort of like the X-Files meets film-noir PI, or something to that effect.
All that being said, this is a GREAT film and is well worth watching by anyone who like apocalyptic film-noir (in fact, this may be the only film in that sub-genre). Anyone who is a fan of bizarre camera work, weird symbolism and a stranger storyline, should really check this out.
Observe the many bizarre inconsistencies (clocks that jump ahead and back, screams that don't jibe right with the soundtrack, camera angles that jump mysteriously) and keep in mind that these were INTENDED! When you get a feel for this film and start noticing what the director was attempting to do with this bizarre film I think that you will enjoy it even more. Truly a unique piece of film making.
Sleazy, tawdry B-noir doesn't get any sleazier or tawdrier than Robert
Aldrich's jazzy and astonishingly entertaining "Kiss Me Deadly." This
film was released late in the life cycle of the film noir genre. By
1958 and Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," true noir would be just about
washed up. Any noir film from that point forward would be
self-consciously aware that it was tipping its hat to an established
genre. But "Deadly" came out when films still didn't have to work at
being noirish---they just WERE, and dazzlingly so.
Born-to-play-a-bully Ralph Meeker plays tough-guy detective Mike Hammer, who's in the wrong place at the wrong time and picks up a mysterious panic-stricken girl (Cloris Leachman), who's just escaped from an asylum. From that moment forward, he finds himself tangled up in a barely lucid plot, in which a bunch of baddies want to get their hands on something the girl either had or knew about. Hammer doesn't know what it is, but he knows that if so many people want it, it's something he probably wants too, and the race for the great "whatsit" is on.
If you wanted to teach a film class about the look and attitude of a film noir, you couldn't pick a better film than this one. I found myself on a recent viewing of this film pausing my DVD player and studying the frame (because, sadly, this is what I do in my spare time), rehearsing in my mind what I would tell a class about any particular composition. And aside from the style, the film is steeped in noir sentiment--it's not simply cynical, like the glossier studio noirs of the 40's; it's downright apocryphal. It's not simply one man undone by the vengeful forces of fate here, but an entire civilization on the brink of extinction.
So pop this in and have a great time with it--feel free to quote it liberally, as there are plenty of juicy lines worth quoting. But as you watch it, you might want to stay away from the windows, for as Mike Hammer's hot-to-trot sometime girlfriend, sometime secretary Velda says, someone may "blow you a kiss."
Robert Aldrich was a no-nonsense film director. When he undertook the
direction of this film, little did he know it was going to become the
extraordinary movie it turned out to be. The fame seems to have come by
its discovery in France, as it usually is the case. Based on Mickey
Spillane's novel and adapted by Al Bezzerides, the movie has an unique
style and it's recommended viewing for fans of the film noir genre.
Right from the start, the film gets our imagination as we watch a young woman running along a California highway. That sequence proved Mr. Aldrich's ability to convey the idea of a disturbed young woman that seems to have escaped from a mental institution. The plot complicates itself as Hammer learns that Christine, the young woman, has died. He decides to investigate, which is what he does best.
Some excellent comments have been submitted to this forum, so we will not even try to expand in the action but will only emphasize in the tremendous visual style Mr. Aldrich added to the film, which seems to be its main attraction. For a fifty year old film, it still has a crisp look to it thanks to the impressive black and white cinematography of Ernest Lazlo, who had a keen eye to show us Hammer's world as he makes it come alive. The great musical score by Frank DeVol fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the L.A. of the fifties.
Ralph Meeker made an excellent contribution as Mike Hammer. He dominates the film with his presence. Albert Decker, Paul Stewart, Miriam Carr, Maxine Cooper, Fortuno Bonanova, and especially Cloris Leachman, in her screen debut, make this film the favorite it has become.
Fans of the genre can thank Mr. Aldrich for making a film that didn't pretend to be anything, yet has stayed as a favorite all these years.
"Kiss Me Deadly" had few similarities with Spillane's story about a
gang of dope traffickers
Instead Aldrich reworks the plot so that the
criminals are mixed up in the theft of priceless and high1y dangerous
radioactive material which they are planning to smuggle to an unnamed
The complicated story begins with Hammer picking up a scared
girl on a lonely road at night and continues through the girl's
subsequent death, a kidnapping and a series of very brutal killings
Spillane's Mike Hammer remains the ultimate in violent private eyes The killings seem to matter less than the sadism One scene in which Hammer deliberately breaks the irreplaceable records of an Italian opera lover in order to get the information he wants is more repellent than any of the murders in the film
Furious but stylish, "Kiss Me Deadly" is a film of great power and stays unique for its mixing of art and pulp fiction
If The Maltese Falcon (1941) was the definitive true detective movie, The
Big Sleep (1946) the definitive glamourized detective movie, and Chinatown
(1974) the definitive allegorical detective movie, then Kiss Me Deadly is
the definitive sleazy detective movie.
Mickey Spillane's sadistic private eye Mike Hammer, turned from successful private eye to sleazy bedroom dick, is the quintessential anti-hero, doing just about anything and everything wrong to get a piece of the pie that the characters call "The Big What's-it."
The movie survives by giving the usual Spillane buckets-of-blood story and its protagonist new dimensions. Right from the electric opening scene and the audacious opening credit sequence, the audience is drawn into Hammer's seedy world, where morality is suspended, and the credo of the end justifying the means dominates Hammer's actions. His reckless abandonment is almost never questionned and the film seems to understand his brutality as what he must do to get the job done in an equally brutal world.
Director Robert Aldrich observes all of it with an objective eye that neither glorifies nor condemns the action on-screen, letting the audience draw its own conclusions--even where the plot is concerned. The pace is unrelentless and the plot turns are never fully explained, forcing the audience to participate willingly in all that Hammer does to, hopefully, see the story through to its ending.
And what an ending! I'd de damned to a special place in Hell if I elaborated, so I'll just say that it's one of the greatest I've ever seen. That goes same for the movie itself, which is one of the most stylish, jarring and truly entertaining movies of its genre.
This late entry into the film noir genre has some harsh and memorable
scenes and an ending unlike any other film noir. Of course, most of
those weren't made during the A-Bomb scares of the mid 1950s, as this
The movie features a tough, no-nonsense Mike Hammer-like private eye, played well by Ralph Meeker, whose tough-guy dialog is a little dated but still fun to hear. This is one of those noirs in which everyone is a tough-talking, tough-acting mug and one never knows who to trust. Except for Cloris Leachman, who is only in the first quick (but haunting) opening scene, the females in here are unfamiliar actresses but people with interesting faces and personalities.
That opening with Leachman is a real attention-grabber and is one of the best starts I've ever seen in a crime movie. It's very creepy, as is the unique ending. I also appreciated the cinematography in here a lot more once the DVD was issued.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Few B movies can enthrall the Noir enthusiast more than the insane
inspiration of Robert Aldrich's bizarre amalgam of
Noir/Sci-fi/Horror/Comedy---KISS ME DEADLY As wonderful as the visuals
are in KMD--and they truly are amazing in their variety and creativity,
and in the way some of them evoke a perfect Noir sensibility--And as
terrifically complex and disorienting as the narrative can be---It's
the characters that keep many of us coming back again and again.
Ralph Meeker, as Mike Hammer, is a perfect embodiment of a detached, self-interested opportunist (who still has vestiges of humanity brought out by the sad and tragic "Christina"). He does a great job with offhand line delivery and is a unique member of the canon of Noir anti-heroes.
Maxine Cooper--as Velda--is also sui generis in her way with dialog. The 'maypole' scene where where gradually reveals to Mike the names of two more 'persons of interest' is a case in point: an oddly phrased pseudo-poetic/playful performance. And who can forget Nick Dennis as Nick the mechanic ("Va-va-voom! Pretty Pow!!") a fully realized personage who idealizes his dashing friend and takes far too many risks to help him out. Nick's death is a still-shocking moments in a film of many delectable jolts. Fortunio Bonanova--the "poor man's Caruso" singing off-pitch to the great tenor's recording as Mike invades his apartment: this is the same actor who plays the singing teacher in CITIZEN KANE ("Impossible! Impossible!"). Gaby Rodgers: the seeming amateurishness of her acting is part of the character's duplicity. She's great: a small landmark in a long line of femmes fatales. The two Jacks, Lambert and Elam--their intimidation turning to screaming terror at the unexpected prowess of Mike Hammer (a nice re-tuning of Noir expectations). Albert Dekker--spouting frightening mythological imagery to an uncomprehending Gabrielle/Lily Carver. Wonderfully weasel-faced Percy Helton's unbearably real-sounding screams as Mike 'hammers' his hand in the desk drawer. And Juano Hernandez as boxing manager Eddie Yeager, who gets this memorable dialog exchange:
Mike: "What did they pay you? I'll top it."
Eddie: "You can't top this: they said they'd let me breathe."
So many more small and unforgettable characters---not forgetting to mention Chloris Leachman as Christina, the girl who gets it all going?--They make the film add up to a three-dimensional, one-of-a-kind movie experience not to be missed or soon forgotten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know whether the blame for this ought to rest on Spillane,
Bezzerides, or Aldrich. Doesn't matter, there's more than enough to go
around. It's unfortunate that this movie was "rediscovered" (I use the
term with hesitation because I don't think it was ever discovered in
the first place. Released, yes. Discovered, not quite) but even more
unfortunate that it's received such a glut of critical attention
lately. One of the "virtues" critics have been pointing out in this
flick is what a great job it does capturing the "soullessness" and
"spiritual vacancy" of 50s Southern California. One writer went so far
as to liken Meeker to "Marlon Brando with the soul burned out of him."
The problem is that the movie doesn't depict a soulless Los Angeles,
but that it tries to depict a vibrant and lively LA and does so
ineptly. Nick, the mechanic; the elderly Italian porter who gives
Hammer a clue; the opera singing informant; the boxing manager; to a
lesser extent, Velda, all these characters are lively and engaging and
suggest a real humanity against this "soulless" backdrop. However,
Ralph Meeker makes Mike Hammer about as interesting as a bag of
doorknobs (betcha thought I was going to say hammers). The women
characters are painted very shallowly and with trademark Spillane
misogyny. I gotta say, I don't know exactly what that's about.
These are broad complaints with the film. I've got a few very specific gripes, but they involve plot points, so be aware of spoilers below.
First, the movie telegraphs just about every major event rather stiffly. Two seconds after Christina, the asylum escapee, says "If we don't make it to the bus stop . . ." viola, they are waylaid and don't make it to the bus stop. Every time the plot needs a forward push, Velda shows up and says "I got a few more names." Very convenient, very wooden, very unsatisfying.
The dialogue is not stylized, it's unnatural. I would say that the delivery is bad, but I don't think this script could have been read well by anybody, which is to say Meeker and Cooper are not up to the task. I think one of the lowest moments comes at the end, when Dr. Soberin is warning Lily about the atomic pinata. In four lines, he piles on the allusion like cold cuts and mixes his metaphors like oil and vinegar to sprinkle on this ugly submarine sandwich of a scene. "What's in the box?" says Lily. "It's like Pandora's box," says the doctor. "You're like Pandora. Don't you know the story of Lot's wife? Please don't open the box, there's a Medusa's head in there. I'm barking like the three heads of Cerberus at the gates of hell." Well, maybe not that bad, but you can check the memorable quotes link for the terrible transcript. A smart mystery writer would limit the allusion to the one significant reference rather than trying to impress with the ridiculous repetition (Robert Parker titles one Spencer mystery "The Widening Gyre," then makes no further reference to this allusion throughout the two-fifty pages that follow).
A final complaint is that there obviously wasn't much research done by Spillane or Bezzerides. Having the good cop Pat explain the entire atomic dilemma simply by saying "Manhattan Project. Los Alamos. Trinity," really sums up the problem. Rather than devising a clear plot, the writers opted to throw around a few atomic age buzzwords that seem to say something while saying very, very little. And then we end up with an image of the Malibu beach house exploding in the 1950s equivalent of a dirty bomb while a gut-shot Hammer clings to Velda in the waves. What is the parallel here? That the hardboiled Hammer will walk off his injury just as the fallout will roll off the back of this soulless Los Angeles?
Idiotic. Reforget this rediscovered tripe and go rent "Out of the Past."
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