KISS ME DEADLY
Driving through the night, tough guy private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picks up a hysterical woman, Christina (Cloris Leachman), who warns him to ‘remember me’ before the car is forced off the road. He’s unconscious when their bodies are put back in the car and it’s pushed off the nearest cliff. She dies in the accident, but he survives, and sets out to find out who she was. The FBI warns him off, but Hammer persists. His car mechanic friend is killed and his secretary kidnapped, and so is he. He escapes, and finds out that Christina swallowed a key of great importance. He forces the morgue attendant to give him the key and tracks down the explosive box it opens.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The brutality of the film’s characters and its scenario are shocking enough today, but in 1955, they were gobsmacking. Hailed as one of the great noir films that took the genre to its ultimate conclusion, Kiss Me Deadly is actually more than that –and more than its posters suggest. The main image is a man kissing the neck of a woman in a low cut dress, her head thrown back. In her right hand, she holds a gun, loosely, pointing down. Surrounding this image are smaller drawings; one of two men wrestling, both holding guns. Another shows a woman sitting on the floor, her dress slipping off her shoulders…and another of a kiss, this time the man dangling the gun by its trigger guard. Altogether, a picture of tough guys, great dames and loads of gunplay. But this is slightly misleading, aiming for the simplest buttons in our psyche.
While Kiss Me Deadly has all of that, it also has a payoff drawn directly from the apocalyptic fears of the Cold War. Manhattan Project…Los Alamos…Trinity; these are the key words that signal the change in the film’s setting from regular crime to nuclear danger. But on the way to its ending, director Robert Aldrich makes it an unremittingly hazardous experience, with a hero you wouldn’t want to have as a friend, and a sense of dread so palpable that cinematographer Ernest Laszlo captures it on film.
Even in black and white it is a colourful experience. Style and substance are brought together in this acidic work, relentlessly downbeat yet mesmerising with its fast paced drama, edgy story and bruised characters in search of answers they won’t like finding.
Email this article
KISS ME DEADLY (MA)
(US) - 1955
CAST: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Marian Carr, Marjorie Bennett, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman
PRODUCER: Robert Aldrich
DIRECTOR: Robert Aldrich
SCRIPT: A.I. Bezzerides (novel by Mickey Spillane)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ernest Laszlo
EDITOR: Michael Luciano
MUSIC: Frank De Vol
PRODUCTION DESIGN: (art production) William Glasgow
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Chapel Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: September 18, 2003