Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly

4.6 6
Director: Robert Aldrich

Cast: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart

     
 

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Regarded by many critics as the ultimate film noir, and by many more as the finest movie adaptation of a book by Mickey Spillane, Kiss Me Deadly stars Ralph Meeker as Spillane's anti-social private eye Mike Hammer. While driving down a lonely road late one evening,See more details below

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Overview

Regarded by many critics as the ultimate film noir, and by many more as the finest movie adaptation of a book by Mickey Spillane, Kiss Me Deadly stars Ralph Meeker as Spillane's anti-social private eye Mike Hammer. While driving down a lonely road late one evening, Hammer picks up a beautiful blonde hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman), dressed in nothing but a raincoat. At first, Hammer assumes that the incoherent girl is an escaped lunatic; his mind is changed for him when he and the girl are abducted by two thugs. The men torture the girl to death as the semiconscious Hammer watches helplessly. He himself escapes extermination when the murderers' car topples off a cliff and he is thrown clear. Seeking vengeance, Hammer tries to discover the secret behind the girl's murder. Among those who cross his path in the film's tense, tingling 105 minutes are a slimy gangster (Paul Stewart), a turncoat scientist (Albert Dekker), and the dead woman's sexy roommate (Gaby Rodgers). All clues lead to a mysterious box -- the "Great Whatsit," as Hammer's secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) describes it. Both the box and Velda are stolen by the villains, at which point Hammer discovers that the "Whatsit" contains radioactive material of awesome powers. The apocalyptic climax is doubly devastating because we're never quite certain if Hammer survives (he doesn't narrate the story, as was the case in most Mike Hammer films and TV shows). Director Robert Aldrich and scriptwriter Jack Moffit transcend Kiss Me Deadly's basic genre trappings to produce a one-of-a-kind melodrama for the nuclear age.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
Profoundly sinister, deeply pessimistic, and deliciously witty, Kiss Me Deadly is a film noir unlike any other -- and it’s as modern today as it was on the day it premiered in 1955. Made near the end of the classic Hollywood era, this second trip to the big screen for Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (after 1953's I, The Jury) remains the best, as it casts a shockingly jaundiced eye on the detective genre and on society at large. Director Robert Aldrich conjures up a world that’s decayed and decadent, on the verge of destruction. Nothing embodies this moral corruption more than the lead character himself. Ralph Meeker's Mike Hammer is a shallow brute specializing in sleazy divorce cases, and now that he’s stumbled upon something big, he’s in way over his head. From the very first atmospheric shots, excitement, danger, and sex fill the air. Hammer, driving down the highway one ominous night, picks up a beautiful -- and somewhat underdressed -- woman (played by Cloris Leachman). She hints at dark secrets that threaten her life; moments later, Hammer is run off the road, his passenger tortured and killed, and his curiosity piqued. Ignoring dire warnings from the police, the FBI, and the criminals, he pursues the few clues she’s left him. All trails eventually lead to a strange box that, like Pandora, he cannot resist opening. Every beautifully composed image ratchets up the tension and intensifies the mystery. Hammer’s own dimness adds to the story’s suspense: He can’t give us dependable information, and so the audience waits nervously to discover what’s happening right along with him. Meeker perfectly conveys the character’s arrogance and viciousness; Maxine Cooper exudes sexuality and smarts as his devoted girl Friday, Velma. The result is nothing less than explosive.
All Movie Guide - Karen Backstein
Widely considered the best (if loosest) film adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel, Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955) features Spillane hero Mike Hammer in the ultimate Cold War paranoia investigation. With macho "bedroom dick" Hammer using any violence necessary, this darkest of 1950s films noirs sends him on a search for the "Great Whatsit," an ominously incandescent box encompassing America's nuclear nightmares, as well as man's deepest fears about unpredictably explosive female potency. Starring Ralph Meeker as the brutal Hammer, Kiss Me Deadly is shot through with Aldrich's anarchic sensibility, from Cloris Leachman's desperate opening run along a pitch-black road to the final apocalyptic conflagration. While the film was dismissed by U.S. reviewers, the French Cahiers du cinéma critics praised Kiss Me Deadly's hysterically expressionist style and singular power, as then-critic François Truffaut declared Aldrich the revelation of 1955. Later rediscovered by American film buffs, Kiss Me Deadly has since assumed its rightful place in the film noir pantheon, and films from Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984) to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) have paid homage to that evocatively glowing container. The 1998 restoration returned the final minute-and-a-half of footage to 35mm prints, dramatically altering the film's conclusion. Lucia Bozzola
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Widely considered the best (if loosest) film adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel, Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955) features Spillane hero Mike Hammer in the ultimate Cold War paranoia investigation. With macho "bedroom dick" Hammer using any violence necessary, this darkest of 1950s films noirs sends him on a search for the "Great Whatsit," an ominously incandescent box encompassing America's nuclear nightmares, as well as man's deepest fears about unpredictably explosive female potency. Starring Ralph Meeker as the brutal Hammer, Kiss Me Deadly is shot through with Aldrich's anarchic sensibility, from Cloris Leachman's desperate opening run along a pitch-black road to the final apocalyptic conflagration. While the film was dismissed by U.S. reviewers, the French Cahiers du cinéma critics praised Kiss Me Deadly's hysterically expressionist style and singular power, as then-critic François Truffaut declared Aldrich the revelation of 1955. Later rediscovered by American film buffs, Kiss Me Deadly has since assumed its rightful place in the film noir pantheon, and films from Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984) to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) have paid homage to that evocatively glowing container. The 1998 restoration returned the final minute-and-a-half of footage to 35mm prints, dramatically altering the film's conclusion.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/21/2011
UPC:
0715515081818
Original Release:
1955
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Presentation:
[B&W, Wide Screen]
Time:
1:46:00
Sales rank:
145

Special Features

Audio Commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini; New Video tribute by Director Alex Cox; Excerpts from The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides, a 2005 Documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly Screenwriter; Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane, a 1998 Documentary about the life and work of the author; Video Pieces on the Film's locations; Controversial altered ending; Theatrical Trailer; ; Plus: A booklet featuring an Essay by critic J. Hoberman and a 1955 reprint by Director Robert Aldrich

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ralph Meeker Mike Hammer
Albert Dekker Dr. Soberin
Paul Stewart Carl Evello
Wesley Addy Pat Chambers
Maxine Cooper Velda
Cloris Leachman Christina Bailey, a.k.a. Berga Torn
Jack Elam Charlie Max
Juano Hernandez Eddie Yeager
Gaby Rodgers Lily Carver, a.k.a. Gabrielle
Nick Dennis Nick
Jack Lambert Sugar Smallhouse
Marian Carr Friday
Jerry Zinneman Sammy
Leigh Snowden Girl at Evello's Pool
Percy Helton Morgue Doctor
Madi Comfort Singer
Fortunio Bonanova Carmen Trivago
James McCallion Super
Silvio Minciotti Mover
Robert Cornthwaite F.B.I. Man
James Seay F.B.I. Man
Mara McAfee Nurse
Mort Marshall Piker
Jesslyn Fax Mrs. Super
Marjorie Bennett Manager
Strother Martin Harvey Wallace, Truck Driver
Leonard Mudie Athletic Club Clerk
Bob Sherman Gas Station Man
Sam Balter Radio announcer
Joe Hernandez Radio announcer
Paul Richards Attacker
Kitty White Vocalist in Club (uncredited)
Frank deVol Conductor

Technical Credits
Robert Aldrich Director,Producer
A.I. Bezzerides Screenwriter
Howard Bristol Set Decoration/Design
Nat "King" Cole Songwriter
Frank deVol Score Composer,Songwriter
William Glasgow Art Director
Robert H. Justman Asst. Director
Ernest Laszlo Cinematographer
Michael Luciano Editor
Victor Saville Executive Producer
Bob Schiffer Makeup
Jack Solomon Sound/Sound Designer

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