Sunday, December 21, 2014

294. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Robert Aldrich
Written By: Mickey Spillane, A.I. Bexxerides, from novel by Mickey Spillane
Main Cast: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Maxine Cooper, Gaby Rodgers
Click here to view the trailer


My wife surprised me last night when she announced that she was in the mood for a movie and offered to check out one of the eighteen films I had scheduled to watch to finish out the ninth and next to last season of BOOK watching. After telling her what I had from Netflix, she decided on Kiss Me Deadly, a 1955 film noir and a pretty gritty one at that.

The fun begins when Cloris Leachman, making her big screen debut, comes trotting down the highway wearing only a trenchcoat, her bare feet slapping against the pavement. She runs out in front of an oncoming car, which just happens to be driven by our main character, Mike Hammer (Meeker). He gives her some lip for almost causing him to crash and then finally gives in when she begs for a ride. Up ahead, a police checkpoint reveals that the woman is actually escaped from the local mental institution. A wink and a nod from the girl, named Christina and Hammer tells the police that the girl riding shotgun with him is his wife. They're dismissed and continue on their way, with the girl asking to be dropped at the nearest bus station. Before Hammer can get the girl there, however, the two are ran off the road, Hammer being knocked unconscious. In an abandoned building, Christina is tortured (all we see and hear are her kicking feet and her screams of torture), while Hammer lays out cold. When Christina can't take anymore and dies, the two are loaded back into Hammer's car, where they're pushed over a cliff, thought to be sent to their fiery demise. However, Hammer makes it out alive and since he's a private dick, he's obviously on the case. Enter a slew of mostly seedy characters including Hammer's girlfriend Velda (Cooper), Christina's roommate Lily Carver (Rodgers) and a demented Dr. Soberin, who in the end gets his hands on a glowing case that has to be seen to be comprehended.


You just can't tell me that David Lynch wasn't inspired in some way by this movie. I mean, look at these wacky characters who aren't all completely there and tell me those aren't early composites of David Lynch style persona's. Not to mention the night driving scene at the beginning of the film (we all know Lynch is keen on those) and the mysterious hell box, which just oozes Lynchian flavor. I can't say I was gaga about this one, but it definitely wasn't bad. One of my major complaints would have to be the appearance of too many characters, each not lasting that long but all being a major piece to the grand scheme of the whole movie. Names come at rapid fire pace and I'll be damned if I didn't get a little confused trying to keep everyone in order. By the end, I didn't know Lily Carver from Carmen Trivago and it got a little irritating. I guess you could say that's my problem as opposed to the movie's problem, but I feel like the simpler they could've kept things the easier this one would have been to enjoy. By the end of the movie, I'd forgotten how we'd even really gotten there or what we were trying to figure out. I mean, did they ever reveal who actually killed Christina anyway? Was it Dr. Soberin and Lily Carver a.k.a. Gabrielle? I mean, I realize WHY they killed her - in order to get the glowing box - but I'm pretty sure it's never 100% confirmed who did the torturing. By the way, THE BOOK says that Christina was vaginally tortured with a pair of pliers and what I'd like to know is how do they know that? Am I being stupid in asking that question? I mean, sure, one can assume that they're doing unspeakable, vulgar things to her in places that aren't allowed to be shown on camera, but one could also assume that the camera was kept low simply to let our imaginations run wild. Did THE BOOK let their imagination and the facts get blurred?

All in all, I think most will enjoy this. It's a really gritty noir, that doesn't come with all the fast talking of most, more mainstream noirs of the time. It also doesn't really have any names to speak of, which I kind of like, because it gives it that more realistic quality, like this could just be another episode of the Twilight Zone (especially considering that glowing box!). By the way, here's another stupid question: Was anyone else really shocked to see an answering machine pop up in 1955? I definitely was! Also, what was with that great apartment being leased by Mike Hammer? Private dicks are supposed to live in shoddy digs, across the street from some big glowing sign that constantly flashes in their window, not chic places with answering machines built into the wall. Oh and for you single guys, keep your eyes peeled for some serious eye candy in the form of Maxine Cooper (also her screen debut), Marian Carr, Leigh Snowden and even Cloris Leachman (for a little bit).

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't get it into '7' territory I'm afraid, but a rewatch when I'm a lot less tired and a lot more apt to follow the weaving storyline wouldn't be out of the question.


December 21, 2014  9:48pm


  1. Now then.. I will now be open to accusations of double standards..

    Having gone perhaps a little OTT in my condemnation of Gigi because of it's portrayal of grooming and it's (heavily implied, but not actually made 100% clear) approval of leching after young girls... I will now be approving of / praising a film that makes it obvious a naked woman is tortured...
    Oh dear .. how can I justify that?
    Well, I don't know the answer, I don;t know the difference..
    Perhaps in Gigi we are invited to approve of the actions.. and we have it presented as 'light hearted fun' . There is nothing to approve of in 'Kiss me..', the actions show just how bad the bad guys are.
    That's it. I will use that excuse for thinking this is one great film.

    Aside to Amanda.. We have frequently combined to 'feel bad' about portrayal of rape and other violence against women in some films... I will be interested in your take on this one (Perhaps when I'm done here, I will go to your blog to see if you have 'done' this one)

    OK, back to the subject.

    The above caveats about some of the content taken, ,, wow what a punch in the face of a Noir this is.. one of the grittiest Noirs out there isn't it?
    So much to take in.. From (as you noticed) 'look at my wonderful modern technology' to literary references.. (Christina Rossetti's 'Remember Me') to stark nuclear paranoia.
    Your points about character (and, yes, plot / motivation) confusion are well taken... But when has that ever bothered a Noir?
    For me, well into the 8.5 / 9 territory.

    1. I can certainly understand going higher on this one and I don't object, it just didn't strike me that well, that's all. I wished I could've settled into it a bit better, but a little too much intricacy in the plot alienated me a bit. Simpler, I think, would've been better.


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