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Kiss Me Deadly [DVD]
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Robert Aldrich's brutal film-noir featuring Mickey Spillane's infamous private eye Mike Hammer. Stopping to pick up a semi-naked woman running down the highway, Mike (Ralph Meeker) wakes up to find the woman dead and himself in deep trouble. The FBI tell Mike to leave it alone, so he does just the opposite, beating and bullying his way into the conspiracy which surrounds a criminal group's efforts to reclaim a mysterious black container. This version includes recently rediscovered footage clarifying the film's famously enigmatic ending.
A terrific film noir full of skewed camera angles and mysterious whose-shoes-are-those shots, Kiss Me Deadly is about as dark and exciting as noir gets. A young woman (Cloris Leachman) in bare feet and a trench coat throws herself into the traffic to flag down help and the car she stops belongs to detective Mike Hammer. Not even 15 minutes into the film and there's already been a murder, a mysterious letter, an attempt to kill Hammer and, of course, a warning to stay out of it. Hammer, tired of lowlife divorce cases, smells something big and can't let it go.
Mike Hammer is a detective so cool he can win a fight with nothing more than a box of popcorn as a weapon; he knows his opera singers as well as his amateur prize-fighters and he makes the ladies swoon--but he's far from a conventional hero. In fact, he's emphatically not a nice guy; Hammer happily whores out his secretary-girlfriend Velma to cinch up those divorce cases and has a penchant for slamming other people's fingers in drawers. Even the bad guys know he's a sleazebag ("What's it worth to you to turn your considerable talents back to the gutter you crawled out of?"). Ralph Meeker plays Hammer's ambivalence brilliantly, swinging easily between sexy and just plain mean. --Ali Davis
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A word to the wise: this movie is not easily taken in at a single viewing. Lots of cameos come and go with little or no preamble. I had seen it before I got the DVD, but still found I was missing clues even after the first and second viewing. Give it space to breath.
Its a 1955 movie but visual and aural sound remains unimpaired. Few extras, but at Amazon's bargain price who cares. A naked woman is tortured to death with water-pump pliers; little is seen, but plenty is implied; that plus one or two other points mean that the `12' rating should well be heeded. Otherwise make of it what you will.
There's no real point in describing the plot - it's as unfathomable as most of the film noir genre - it's the style that counts. Then, three quarters of the way through, the film throws a real twist at you, leading inexorably to the final beachhouse scene. At that point, conventionality goes out of the window - along with the world and everything else...
Made in 1955 by director Robert Aldrich, this is, with the exception of 'Chinatown' and 'Double Indemnity', THE film noirs to end all film noirs (the film was actually made at the close of the film noir period in Hollywood). Starring a thuggish Ralph Meeker as private investigator Mike Hammer, the story is based on Mickey Spillane's pulp fiction story about a P.I who gets involved with a woman accidently and becomes caught up in events that spiral out of control. The thing that drives the story along is his hunt for the mysterious 'Pandora's Box', an ambiguous object that is only revealed at the end of the film, when Mike's search ends up further than he would have liked.
Shot with crazy, awkward camera angles, and a startlingly vivid opening to the movie, 'KMD' not only summed up what film noir movies were all about, it also influenced a whole generation after it. Even Quentin Tarantino has borrowed from the film, when the glowing briefcase John Travolta opens in 'Pulp Fiction' harks back to the glowing box Mike Hammer opens in this film. And this was a movie shot with a low budget and unrecognisable actors in under three weeks!!
If you're a fan of crime thrillers both old and new, you must purchase 'KMD'. From its beginning to its end (probably one of the best endings ever filmed), this has to be seen to be appreciated. This is one of my favourite films ever because of its striking realism and detail - A MUST BUY!!!
That's reason enough for watching, but if you look just under the surface there's more. The traditional sex-roles are held up to the light - male "toughness" and female "gentleness" - and both are found wanting in a world that doesn't forgive any mistakes.
Ralp Meeker's Mike Hammer is as close as you'll get to the the nasty original that Mickey Spillane wrote. (You keep thinking "this guy's the hero?".) But the film belongs to Gaby Rodgers, who was never in anything else, but should have got an Oscar for this - wow.
It's in black and white - but so are many of the best movies.
The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play ‘all’ regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the ‘DVD’ front – that won’t help. The French issue (which will play on our machines) seems to have disappeared or been deleted...
Until such time as this 1955 black and white classic is given a Region B release by someone else – check your player has the capacity to play REGION A before you plum to buy the expensive Criterion issue…
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