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Kiss Me Deadly (1955)‏


Just a liiiiitle something just a liiiiitle awkward about this poster huh? A perfect mirror, I say.
Just a liiiiitle something just a liiiiitle awkward about this poster huh? A perfect mirror, I say.

Genre: Film Noir Drama 

Starring: Ralph Meeker (Paths of Glory • The Dirty Dozen), Maxine Cooper

Directed By: Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?  Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte)

Overview: Private Investigator Mike Hammer picks up a stranger on the side of the road. When his hitchhiker is promptly murdered, he sees a gig that might just pay more than his everyday.

Mickey Spillane - it's a name that, until watching Kiss Me Deadly, conjured up impressions of hard-boiled grit, callous misogyny, colourful characters and a main character in Mike Hammer that was nothing more than a mean bastard looking for filthy money under dirty rocks. Well now that I've seen Kiss Me Deadly, Mickey Spillane is a name that no longer makes me imagine these these, because it's just the straight up truth.

Based on Mickey Spillane's novel of the same name, Kiss Me Deadly is the story of a private dick - and that's putting it mildly - named Mike Hammer. He picks up a frantic woman hitchhiking in nothing but a trench coat. Once safe in his car, she begins telling Mike her story, but before being able to finish, both of them are kidnapped, beaten and, half-murdered (she's killed, he's not) and dumped off a cliff. Aside from the obvious gripe he has with having his night and car ruined, he's genuinely curious about the whole thing. Mike Hammer begins his investigation, following lead to ever-deadlier lead.

There's the occasional beautiful shot, SURE.

Mike's usual private investigations are more of a divorce-causing racket than a legit business. Either he's  seducing women while his partner Velda takes divorce-causing pictures for their husbands, or he's doing the camerawork while Velda's seducing the husbands. This recent killing has sparked Hammer's curiosity, sure, but because of the type of man he is, Mike's quest is an entirely base, for-profit search that he undertakes knowing full-well that the payoff could be worth significantly more money than his usual private scams investigations, and so he searches. Enter gritty dialogue, sleek cars, dames and double-crosses until the final credits of a film that has maintained thus far a timeless foothold in the Film-Noir Repertoire, and that currently sits as #44 on IMDb's Top 50 Films-Noir ever.

There's my unbiased pumping up of Kiss Me Deadly for you Noir fans out there. As for me, my favourite genre is Noir. I can't get enough, but I still try and pace myself. When it's right, Holy Hell is it ever right, and there's no style of woman's fashion that ever came close to being as sexy as from that era. Still, try as I might, on this, my first viewing, I just could not get into Kiss Me Deadly, and now you rant-lovers will get your fill.

 Uh, nope, still not seein' the sexy.
Uh, nope, still not seein' the sexy.

First and foremost is the Noir mood set by having our anti-hero surrounded by beautiful women. Sorry feminists, but it's just the way it is. The first woman we see is played by Cloris Leachman. I like her fine but I'd never call her bombshell material, and hoooooly gross look at those nasty feet. God Yuck Barf! Next is Maxine Cooper, the woman who plays Mike Hammer's super sultry seductress of a partner. Couldn't do better eh? Well everyone has a type I guess. She ain't mine. 

"Now here's a lady I can maybe get excited about," I thought to myself when first seeing Gaby Rodgers. Alas it was not to be. She's a flake with a bad proletarian accent and such a downright twit that her potential ended up being a boner-kill. 

The only woman beautiful enough for my Film-Noir standards was Marian Carr, and hoo boy does she fit my standards, but she was merely a bit player - and just a teensy bit too trampey for me. 

Although impressive dames and dolls are important to Film-Noir, they aren't the be-all, just look at Sunset Blvd. The story is far more important, however the story flow of Kiss Me Deadly doesn't give us much respite either. From a script that ejaculates name after name after  in a massive game of connect the dots made an all too vast cast of minor characters. It's very much like The Big Sleep in that regard, and I found that the least enjoyable part of that Bogey/Bacall production. Add the ridiculous final MacGuffin and the extremely abrupt conclusion and all there was left to enjoy was the gritty dialogue, most of which rivals Billy Wilder for unrealistic 'for-drama's-sake', only Billy Wilder could pull it off. I frequently found myself saying "Oh Mickey," when yet another wacky character with one big vice or one massive character trait reared his ugly head. All this to say that no single character was a real person, they were all exaggerated caricatures, and it made the film seem too fantastical, almost laughable.

I will leave my rant with the greatest mood-killing scene of all: Mike Hammer finds his next lead and breaks into a man's house in the middle of the night. As the man awakens, afraid of the imminent roughing-up and interrogation, he rushes to the medicine cabinet to take as many sleeping pills as he can. Clearly this man would rather die than face the music. Turns out that his intent was merely to fall asleep fast. He passes out, his snores like a Saturday morning cartoon soundbite. Absolutely atrocious. As we all know, if you gorge yourself on 30 sleeping pills you will fall asleep within three minutes. Yes, that IS how it works. TRUST ME.
"Wait? Did that guy just waste two hours of his life on this?"
"Wait? Did that guy just waste two hours of his life on this?"

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 6 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 68% (Deadly Indeed)

There is enough of a saving grace in Kiss Me Deadly to end on a happy note. The sheer amount of man-on-man face slapping has surpassed any expectations I would dream of seeing in any other Film-Noir. I expect Kiss Me Deadly holds the record. If you don't know my Film-Noir theory, it's simple. A woman-on-man slap is expected. Woman-on-woman face slapping is worthy of a tip of the hat. Man-on-woman slapping is far more intense, but man-on-man face slapping? Well that's just absolutely shaming. Mike Hammer triple backhands no less than three (or was it four) full grown men in Kiss Me Deadly. That, my friends, is a pretty big pair of balls, and I'm glad I got to see it.

| | | | | |

I'd loved this movie but for the apocalyptic ending. In fact, I've even bought a Mike Hammer collection which includes the Naked Kiss.

Anyway, wanted to ask you, which is the link for posting one's reviews of the various films belonging to 1001 Movies that have already been posted? Last time I remember having used the feedback link, but don't know if that was alright.

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