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Kiss Me Deadly
Year:
1955
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
7.7
Director:
Robert Aldrich
Jack Elam as Charlie Max
Robert Cornthwaite as FBi Agent
Gaby Rodgers as Gabrielle
Marian Carr as Friday (as Marion Carr)
Juano Hernandez as Eddie Yeager
Jack Lambert as Sugar Smallhouse
Leigh Snowden as Cheesecake
Mort Marshall as Ray Diker
James McCallion as Horace
Maxine Cooper as Velda
Paul Stewart as Carl Evello
Fortunio Bonanova as Carmen Trivago
Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer
Strother Martin as Harvey Wallace
Cloris Leachman as Christina Bailey
Albert Dekker as Dr. G.E. Soberin
Wesley Addy as Lt. Pat Murphy
Marjorie Bennett as Manager
Percy Helton as Doc Kennedy
Storyline: A frightened woman is running barefoot on a highway, trying desperately to flag a car. After several cars pass her by, the woman sees another car approaching, and to make sure either the car stops - or, she's killed, she stands in the path of an on-coming car. Private Investigator Mike Hammer is the one at the wheel, and after almost hitting the woman, he tells her to get in. The woman's name is Christina Bailey.. She is obviously on the run, being barefoot and wearing nothing but a trench coat, and the scent of fear. Whoever was after her eventually catches up with them. Christina has information they want, but dies while being questioned. The killers fake an accident by pushing Hammer's car off the road, but, he survives, waking up in hospital two weeks later. As Mike starts to investigate Christina's death, he's told by the police to stay out of it, but, the hard-nosed PI proceeds anyways. Little did he know that Christina's secret would lead to death and destruction.
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Reviews
"Keep away from the window, somebody might blow you a kiss."
This might be the coolest movie that doesn't make any sense that I've seen in a long time. I really dig the noir genre, and this one had it going all the way until it U-turned into sci-fi territory with the first reveal during the gym locker scene, and then going all out at the finale. I would have gotten more out of the picture if the MGM DVD I watched offered English sub-titles, too many times the dialog was muffled enough that I probably missed some helpful narrative.

I guess if you want to go the sadistic Mike Hammer route, Ralph Meeker did a decent enough job, but what I really think the screenplay needed was some of Bogart's repartee cracking wise with guys like the two Jacks - Elam and Lambert. There weren't any light spots in the story to render the players as having any dimension to their characters other than being good guys or bad guys. Except for va-va voom mechanic Nick (Nick Dennis), he was a trip. A little more nuance for someone like Lily Carver/Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers) would have been welcome, so that by the time she went on her shooting spree at the end, we would have been more astonished by her actions.

Still and all, I'm intrigued enough to watch this again while trying to block my memory of the nuclear stockpile in that little black box. What was that thing made out of anyway?
2012-05-12
Pitiful!
I'm absolutely amazed that anyone thinks this is a great film....other than some interesting framing and camera angles there is nothing remotely intriguing about it....the cast is mostly a collection of recognizable second rate actors....the dialogue is stifling....the editing is horrendous; probably more wasted space than in any film I've seen in a long time...there is hardly any character development at all and certainly no characters other than Cloris Leachman's and the mechanic which create any sympathy or connection with the viewer...the plot is absurd....the ending is virtually sci-fi and totally unrealistic....in addition to there being too many "sunny" scenes, Hammer remains too upbeat throughout the film for this to be called a noir film.....there is no apparent "edgeiness" or element of despair which are classic components of film noir....MAIN POINT: this is not Film Noir....I repeat, this is not Film Noir....if you are actually interested in such, go rent "Out of the Past" or "The Killers" and learn something....
2007-11-14
edgy, violent '50s noir
I have to admit, I have always found Ralph Meeker sexy, and he is hot as all get-out as Mike Hammer in "Kiss Me Deadly." He's very Brandoesque, and in fact, followed Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar on Broadway. He makes a tough Mike Hammer in a tough movie that doesn't let up on the violence or the sexual innuendo. I was never sold on Spillane himself as Hammer and I actively hated Stacy Keach in the TV series, which seemed a little too macho and chauvinistic for the times. In the black and white '50s, it feels just right, if a little more brass knuckles than other films in the genre.

Hammer spends the movie trying to find out the secret that a hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman) was killed for, and all she's left him is a clue, "Remember Me." As people die to the left and right of him, Hammer can only hope he's left standing by the end of the movie.

The ending was very tense and exciting, although I don't believe it was very realistic. At that point, it almost takes on the ambiance of a horror film.

Robert Aldrich gives the film a very fast-paced direction and wonderful atmosphere. Leachman is "introduced" in this film, and she's recognizable immediately. Gaby Rodgers as Lily gives what can only be described as a bizarre performance. Leachman is really the only likable, sympathetic character in the film.

Of note is the early version of an answering machine, which I either saw in one other film, or I saw this movie before - but it's great, an old reel to reel tape recorder mounted on a wall.

One thing I wondered about - when Hammer is being followed at night, the clock says 2:15, so one assumes it's 2:15 a.m. But it seems like everyone is awake - when he gets to the apartment house, the landlord is cleaning the room out and an old man is bringing in a trunk. The clock is in several shots - it says 2:20 also, I believe - so it's not a mistake. Hmmm. Perhaps I missed something, so distracted was I by steamy Ralph Meeker.
2005-09-17
Sensational for three quarters. Slightly questionable final part
Late night. A bare-foot woman desperately runs along a highway, in the crude intermittent light of the passing cars. Then she suddenly jumps in the middle of the road, forcing a driver to stop, at her own risk to be run over... I venture to say that this opening scene of "Kiss me deadly" together with the following ten minutes offer the best beginning of a film-noir I've ever seen.

In fact, I think this movie is sensational for at least three quarters. The direction by Aldrich is superb. The black and white photography is magnificent, the gloomy atmosphere of a corrupted underworld is masterly represented. A no-stars cast makes an outstanding job. The story is exciting, violent, intricate, with many surprises. And how I like the title: "Kiss me deadly"... tough and splendidly evocative! Is it possible to do better?

However, I think that the final part is a bit questionable. The stuff with the cryptic letter, the poem and the key is more in the style of Agatha Christie's clockwork machinery than of a violent, hard-boiled story. And what actually is the "Whats-it" is difficult to swallow. But, in fairness, the last scene is very powerful, hardly believable as it is.

Now the main question: how could this movie manage to pass the censorship in 1955? It seems that the guys in charge were much more enlightened than we use to think today. The amount of violence was unheard of for the epoch: see for instance the first murder, or the scene of the drawer. Indeed, Aldrich uses many brilliant devices to hint to violence rather than openly show it, but the atmosphere is no less scaring for this. And what about sex? All women are sexually free and explicit in their desires. They sleep naked and, when up, they wear either dressing-gowns or bath-robes, and nothing else, or over-tight sexy dresses. And women are not less greedy, cynical and pitiless than men.

But what is really stunning, even for the standards of current movies, is the character of Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker): let's give much credit to the writer Spillane. Compared with Hammer, "Dirty Harry" Callaghan seems a boy-scout. Let's see... Hammer is a greedy, violent bully, a loathsome thug of the same kind of the gangsters he fights. He's ready to kill ruthlessly. He brutally beats innocent people to get informations... That's not enough: as a private eye, he is specialized in divorces. The fact is that he deliberately cheats his own clients, messing up their cases, just to get more money (and indeed he's very well-off: luxury car, beautiful apartment...). His favorite technique consists in employing his beautiful secretary/girl-friend/lover Velda (Maxine Cooper) to allure, go-to-bed-with and finally blackmail either his clients or their opponents, according to economical convenience. And Velda agrees to act as a prostitute with easy mind, good-humor and professionalism! Very hot stuff even for the present (politically correct) 2000s, isn't it? Hammer is really the antithesis of the romantic, if tough, private eyes of the classic film-noirs.

"Kiss me deadly" is an excellent, strikingly original movie, despite its possible defects: highly recommended.
2001-06-26
From runaway hitchhikers to the Manhattan Project
Based on the pulp novel by Mickey Spillane, this utterly bizarre film noir features Ralph Meeker as private investigator Mike Hammer, who makes the grave mistake of picking up runaway psychiatric patient Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) on a rural road late one night; shortly after, they are attacked, he witnesses her murder, and the two are tossed in his car and pushed over a cliff. Hammer survives, but finds himself in a web of mystery surrounding Christina's perplexing warnings that ultimately lead him to a mysterious box that is hot to the touch, filled with light, and emits ungodly sounds straight out of hell.

Robert Aldrich, who later infamously directed the cult thriller "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", directs this quirky and surreal film with a great deal of flair— while it at times appears as through-and-through noir, there are plenty of weird twists and turns in the labyrinthine plot as Hammer ventures from character to character, trying to piece together just what the ghostly Christina was caught up in. It's a talky film that relies on a lot of "he said, she said" in relaying crucial plot content (the matter of fact as well as the totally bizarre), but its pacing is even handed, its characters straight shooting, and its spooling of the peculiar details candid and effective.

The black and white cinematography lends a significant darkness to the film that enhances its overall off-kilter tone; this is bolstered by the fact that the bulk of it takes place at night. The acting here not astoundingly great, but it's not exactly subpar either— the dialogue is admittedly hokey at times, but given the pulp novel source material, this is forgivable, especially since the film makes up for all of this in mood and presentation. Ralph Meeker is a solid leading man, oozing masculinity and an ego that borders on chauvinism while the female counterparts playfully dance around him— aside from Leachman's character, who wryly indexes him within the first five minutes— she's also the first to die. Feminist readings of the film aside, "Kiss Me Deadly" is probably the most bizarre film noir in cinematic history, and it's also one of the darkest. Its influence can be seen in contemporary film, explicitly referenced by Alex Cox in "Repo Man" and in Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," and more subtly in the works of David Lynch.

The infamous final scene is jaw-dropping and unexpected, and potentially (depending on how you want to look at it) leaves the audience with more questions than answers. Given the Cold War context in which the film was made, the nuclear angle is the most plausible and discussed of course, but Aldrich's dramatic presentation of the iconoclastic "Pandora's box" is still more unnerving than radioactive fallout, the apocalypse, or Pinhead and his vassals. 9/10.
2014-07-15
Cold War Noir
Kiss Me Deadly(1955) is one of the top films of the late Noir period. This is the best film adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel. It is an unique feature because it deals with the fear of nuclear bombs and nuclear war. The film is an all around great movie from the opening scene to the explosive ending. Ralph Meeker gives a terrific performance as he portrays Mike Hammer with a brutish quality that is retained from the novel.

Kiss Me Deadly(1955) along with The Big Heat(1953) were unusally violent for the period in which they were made. It would influence many later films including Chinatown(1974) and L.A. Confidential(1997) with its style and depiction of corruption. The violence in the film errupts like a volcano and freezes like the ice. This was the film debut for Academy Award winner Cloris Leachman. In the movie, Mike Hammer is a detective who specializes in devorce and blackmail cases.

The direction in the movie is taut and the story is terrific. This is a great movie that should be seen more than once. Robert Aldrich shows why he was one of the best action directors of the 1950's and 1960's. The mystery of the black box would be the influence for the mystery of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction(1994). The ending decends into the genre of Science Fiction.
2000-03-17
"Stay away from the window. Someone might blow you a kiss."
The ultimate noir that has got everything - and wasn't even intended to be anything special. There are no great stars in it, and yet the acting transcends most contemporary star movies. Yet the prize goes to Marion Carr as the girl Friday. She didn't make many pictures, but her performance here secured her a place in film history, a simple girl with the wrong connections who constantly gets more entangled in her own fate as a hopeless victim of circumstances and her own desperate efforts to get to the top of her troubles, which only maximizes them, in a complex character of some kind of mixture between Judy Holliday and Kim Novak in "Vertigo". A special tribute goes for the music with its many variations, from Nat King Cole to Schubert, Brahms and Chopin, and a splendid blues singer (Mady Comfort) on top of it. The script and dialogue is virtuoso all the way, the action serves you constant refreshing surprises, and every character is clearcut and convincing, especially the girls. The hard-boiled story is intermixed with poetry, Italian opera and tragedy, Nick Dennis stands for the tragic part in shockingly upsetting injustice, and it all mounts up to the great mystery of 'the great what's-it' in a grand finale, greater than any opera. In brief, this is a noir for all times and so surprisingly modern at the same time, that it has the strange ability of getting better with age and each time you see it, which reveals new fascinating details of it to remember. A full score of 10 was seldom more obvious.
2015-03-09
A deadly concoction of dames in distress...
Over fifty years ago, I thought this was a great movie, long before I knew what the term film-noire was all about. After watching it again recently, it's still one of the best of the genre made – despite the awful change to the contents of the box that everybody was after...

I've not read the Spillane novel, but I understand that drugs or money were involved in the book. For this version, director Aldrich went overboard, in my opinion. However, at that time, the McCarthy circus was in full swing, the Cold war was hotting up and I guess Hollywood had to show that there were indeed patriots still in good ol' USA.

Hence, the need to cast Albert Dekker as a guy (Dr Soberin) prepared to sell nuclear secrets and material to the bad guys – in this case, the un-named Soviet Union. The only fly in his ointment is Ralph Meeker as tough PI Mike Hammer who always seems to bump into trouble wherever he goes.

The plot is moody, convoluted, jerky, mysterious and dark – literally and metaphorically. Meeker plays Hammer to a T: tough, cynical, sadistic, and merciless. The scene when Hammer crushes the fingers of Doc Kennedy (Percy Helton), to get what he wants, lingers on Hammer's face, the joy of watching the Doc suffer clearly evident; that scene stayed with me when I first saw this movie in my teens. It still has impact today.

The other standout scene that shows Meeker's skill as Hammer is when he's mugged by some guy who tries to put knife into Mike's back. Not only does Mike beat the guy up, but he throws the mugger down a very long flight of concrete steps and watches with glee as the schmuck bounces all the way to the bottom. Is the mugger dead? He should be, after that long fall – and Mike just grins his satisfaction. But, we never find out – just another episode of life and death in the big city...

Apart from Meeker, I particularly liked the performances of the three women: Maxine Cooper as long-suffering Velda, Cloris Leachman (in her film debut) as Christina Bailey and best of all, Gaby Rodgers as Gabrielle – a true femme fatale. What a shame Gaby Rodgers left the movie business in the early sixties!

Cinematography is superb – the sleaze, the grey days, the dark nights, the slick streets – beautifully capturing the mood of Spillane's novels, and probably the best Hammer movie I've seen. Certainly ranks with Out of the Past (1947), The Killers (1946) and some others, for authenticity within the genre.

Not to be missed.
2007-10-23
Don't Open That Box!!
Kiss Me Deadly is an exceptionally gripping adaptation of Mickey Spillane's famous novel of the same name. It's brutal, surreal, gritty and intelligent. In fact, it's everything that you'd expect, and get, from Spillane's hard-edged, graphically violent novel.

Kiss Me Deadly stars actor Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer, a hard-boiled, one-dimensional, Private-Eye doing his investigating thing on the shady side of town, cruising along the streets of San Francisco.

Meeker is superb as the rugged, callous, womanizer named Mike Hammer. I don't think I've ever seen any other actor portray shallowness and brutality so brilliantly as Meeker does in his character as Hammer. His performance is truly a splendid display of refined apathy and cynicism that goes far beyond the expected.

Kiss Me Deadly's story unfolds one hot, summer night on the outskirts of town.

While cruising along the open high-way, at break-neck speed, Mike Hammer suddenly steers his cherished convertible into a massive skid, nearly losing control. Hammer's wheels screech, like pure pain, along the dark pavement as he attempts to avoid hitting a young woman dressed only in an over-sized trench-coat, standing right in the middle of the road, frantically trying to wave someone down for help.

Cutting a brutal path through the city's sleazy underside, Hammer soon uncovers a mysterious, black container whose extremely deadly contents triggers a horrifying, apocalyptic climax that is a real visual stunner in its execution. Pandora's Box has now been opened, unleashing a virtual "Hell-On-Earth" doomsday that Mankind can neither stop, nor control.

Filmed in b&w, Kiss Me Deadly was directed by Robert Aldrich whose other notable films included The Dirty Dozen and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
2013-08-06
An archetype setting noir film
Tense, violent noir.

Mike Hammer picks up woman wandering on desert road, gets caught in a complex plot plot that leads to a stolen nuclear bomb. Some great shots. A lot of 50s noir archetypes were set by this film.

The ending is a bit silly and symbolically heavy handed at the same time, and some of the performances are over-the-top, but it's certainly an enjoyable film.

Some critics consider it a flat out masterpiece. Personally I find that a stretch. But I did like it better on 2nd viewing, so I might return for another look sometime.
2010-06-12
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