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Kiss Me Deadly [DVD]
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 February 2014
At present this 1955 Noir favourite is available on BLU RAY in the States and France. But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

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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on 29 December 2010
`Kiss Me Deadly' is a movie that literally hits the ground running. It combines all the classic elements of delightful noirish photography, biting and clue-laden dialogue, an obscure mystery, a trail of bodies, and a dogged gumshoe. Instead of Bogey or Mitchum we have Ralph Meeker. Although not so familiar, he does a great job as violent, ambivalent anti-hero tinctured with sleeze. After narrowly surviving a murder attempt, he decides to snoop on his own behalf, sniffing out both profit and revenge. The plot is slow and convoluted and gives no hint of what finally transpires. People are scared. People vanish. People die. Nobody wants to talk, but Meeker's Mike Hammer never lets up. After one bizarre little teazer, the story moves forward suddenly, leading to the most astonishing denouement in film-noir history. You are literally left staring at the screen.

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.
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on 13 June 2010
Tense, violent noir. Mike Hammer picks up woman wandering on desert road, gets caught in plot that leads to a stolen nuclear bomb. Some great shots, and 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 enjoyable. Some critics consider it a masterpiece. I find that a stretch. But I did like it better on 2nd viewing, so maybe I'll return to it yet again.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 December 2013
KISS ME DEADLY, (1955). In this violent 106 minute black and white thriller, which is considered a classic of film noir, tough sleazy Los Angeles detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picks up Christina, a scantily clad, deeply frightened hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman). His car is then forced over a cliff. Days later, he awakens from unconsciousness to find his doomed passenger dead -- but it wasn't the fall that killed her. Hammer sets out to find the woman's deadly secret and her murderers, who had tortured her for her secret. He thinks it might be a big story, meaning big money for him, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation is interested. So he ignores explicit messages that he should mind his own business. This crime drama was adapted by A.I. Bezzerides from Mickey Spillane's bestselling novel of the same name, and directed by Robert Aldrich, The Dirty Dozen,Flight Of The Phoenix , who was to carve out quite a career for himself in men's' action adventure flicks. My television set found English subtitles although the disk does not advertise them.

This film, set in and around Los Angeles, certainly opens memorably, as the credits scroll upside down, and the Leachman-Meeker introduction is striking. Director Aldrich has made full use of the vocabulary of black and white film noir, giving us atmospheric lighting and shadows and numerous moody deep focus scenes. He has also made full use of his LA settings, getting particular atmospherics out of its Bunker Hill area, which once housed the cream of society, but had, by this time, fallen to house the dregs, and has now been disappeared by urban renewal and a famous, beautiful new concert hall, though the tram, and the long flights of steps that reached Bunker Hill still remain to this day: I've found them. In fact, film critics, for whatever their reasons, generally say that the only acceptable modern full-color films noir are set in LA; but there's no question but that this suspenseful mystery helped set the perimeters of the genre. Aldrich feels certain enough to play with the genre. At one point Velda, Hammer's girlfriend, remarks about the body count, as people struggle to find the mysterious "great whatsit," even though nobody knows what it is. So take that, Alfred Hitchcock, great Anglo-American director of thrillers, who has put forward the theory of the macguffin, that which the film is about, as everyone struggles to find it.

The atmosphere of the film is also well-set by the appropriate cars and clothes, although, of course, they were contemporaneous with its making. But there are additional details too. At one point Hammer buys, as he apparently frequently does, popcorn from a street vendor for 10 ¢. There is also a nifty early answering machine, elegantly set into the wall of Hammer's office: I lived through the period in question and have never seen anything like it. Aldrich has come up with numerous nifty touches: a bit of business with a cigarette pack. With a trunk. Not one, but two barefooted pretty young girls running around, supposedly naked beneath their outerwear: a trench coat and a house coat. In fact, more acting with feet, legs and shoes than I have seen in any movie aside from the French filmmaker Robert Bresson's AU HASARD BALTHAZAR. A fistfight at ocean's edge. The later radio broadcast of a fight that Hammer had previously discussed with the friend training one of the fighters. The presence of more urban ethnic immigrants, and blacks, than I believe was common at the time.

However, there was sure no studio splurging on Aldrich's acting talent. Headliner Meeker (Paths Of Glory [DVD] [1957], THE DIRTY DOZEN), was always considered more a supporting player than a star. Second billed Albert Dekker as Dr. G. E. Soberin, also played in The Wild Bunch and The Killers . Other somewhat familiar male faces include Wesley Addy as LA Police Lieutenant Pat Murphy, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, Paul Stewart, and Juano Hernandez. The briefly-seen Leachman was the only one of the female stars to have any further career.

At the rip roaring alternate conclusion of the film that is preferred today, Hammer's girlfriend Velda looks back, from the safety of the ocean, to a beach house exploding in flames. A few minutes before, Dr. Soberin has explicitly told us, in case we didn't know it, of the biblical story of Lot's wife, who looked back, when she was warned not to, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Velda is not turned into a pillar of salt. Some very classy touches from a maker of men's popcorn films. Recommended, at least once.
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on 18 March 2007
Over thirty years ago, long, long before Sky had tied up new releases and the quality back catalogue, a film fan could educate him or herself through the simple expedient of watching terrestrial tv. Most nights from about 11 pm BBC2 was showing classics of British, world or US cinema. That's how I first stumbled on "Kiss Me Deadly" - a bored teenager flicking through the very limited range of channels available. That turned out to be one of the most memorable film experiences of my life. Its been called the best film noir ever. Its fair to say that's probably wrong, but misses the point. As a late example (1955) it represents the apogee of film noir and to my mind you really can't begin to understand it until you understand the US in the fifties - affluent and expansive but paranoid and terrified. That's assuming (and this is apparently a matter of debate) that this unique film, and in particular its conclusion, came about in the way the film makers intended.

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...
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 26 February 2014
As you've probably gathered most of the reviews are for the 'DVD' version of “Kiss me Deadly” – a 1955 Black and White Film Noir classic. And the BLU RAY is available in both the States and France (but not in the UK). But if you’re a buyer over here in Blighty - which issue do you get?

Unfortunately the desirable USA Criterion release is REGION-A LOCKED - although it doesn't say so on Amazon. 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 release (which boasts the same cleaned up transfer) is REGION B so that will play on UK machines - but even this issue comes with its own problems for UK buyers - least of which are Euro language subtitles on screen you can't get shot of (and it's difficult to purchase).

Until someone releases an English-language version we can use with ease - check your machine is 'all regions' before purchasing the pricey American 'Criterion' release...
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on 26 July 2009
Spirited Mike Hammer noir thriller that takes you on a very twisty ride. The story is more convolute, more unfollowable than most Philip Marlowe thrillers, and that is saying something. Hammer is ofcourse a different man to Marlowe, more hands on and very streetwise, a blue collar type, ambitious and materialistic and less bothered by his scruples, operating at the lower end of the market. That's not to say he isn't a clever man and good at his work.

L.A. and California are the natural, original and most authentic Film Noir settings, and they are exploited beautifully once again here in KMD. The mix of wealth, crime, desirable women and dangerous men living out swanky lives with one or two secrets to hide is all there, giving alot of work for P.I.s. Hammer takes on a case that is out of the ordinary for him, when he bumps into a troubled woman...make of the rest what you will, but don't expect convention all the way.

Ralph Meeker isn't exactly one of the best known movie actors, and I struggled to think of another film I'd seen him in, but might look out for one or two now to watch. He was fantastic as the no-nonsense shamus with a job to do, a man who faces his adversaries head on and doesn't shy away from the rough stuff. (That's not to say that Marlowe didn't, but he was far less direct and more subtle about it.) Meeker gives his P.I. a fairly macho look and is obviously attractive to the ladies, but Mike Hammer is not a man to get too involved with his females, there is a cool mistrust of them and he handles them all with gloves.

Cool, edgy, slightly trashy feeling Noir, owing mainly to its tight budget, lack of big names and short filming schedule, yet it just feels right as a Noir. And despite little patches of incredibility in the narrative, and the general lack of gloss in production, this film entertains all the way. Aldrich does not hold back either in his direction, he gives the movie an adult feel, which really adds to the Noirness, this is a dark Noir. With the resourses it has, and the tortuous narrative it deploys, it does a fantastic job, and adds something new to the genre. Not a Big Sleep or Touch of Evil maybe, but still not a Noir to be sniffed at.
4.5
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on 25 August 2003
On the surface this is a well paced thriller from the dangerous days of the cold war. The bad guys and the good guys all play hardball and there's plenty of action on the way to a truly apocalyptic ending.
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.
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on 1 November 2003
'Kiss Me Deadly' has to be one of the most exceptional film noirs of cinematic history. If ever there was a crime movie at its toughest, this is it!
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!!!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 November 2013
Mike Hammer is driving down a dark highway when a half naked blonde forces him to stop, this event sends Hammer spiralling on a journey that may have a cataclysmic consequence for all involved.

Kiss Me Deadly is a harsh movie, it contains an array of characters that are dislikable in the extreme, nobody can be trusted, and everyone on the surface appears to be selfish in their respective motivations. Taking in torture, murder, violence on tap, and a wonderful mystery plot, it's not hard to see why the film has gained a massive reputation as the years have rolled by, where although it's brutish in substance, the film is a damn riveting piece of work.

Ralp Meeker is excellent as Hammer, a character who refuses to lay down, he gets knocked down constantly, but he gets back up tougher than before, he becomes the kind of hard boiled guy who hits first and then asks questions later. The direction from Robert Aldrich is perfect, off- kilter camera work drags the viewer into this skew-whiff world that Hammer has entered, and we often only see shots of the bad guys torsos so as to make them faceless thugs. It's down right aggressive film making that hits the requisite thriller mark.

Kiss Me Deadly has influenced many others since its release, be it Repo Man or Pulp Fiction, its impact is still being felt today. Containing a much talked about ending (both the restored and alternate endings work on differing levels to many), it's a film that leaves things up for discussion and debate, but what we do know for sure is that it's explosive and crowns what is now firmly established as a crime classic from the film noir splinter of film making styles. 8.5/10
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