Movie Critique - Kiss Me Deadly

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A great tough guy detective movie where he doesn’t shy to walk in the grey lines, lives by the motive of ends justify the means, even if it hurts those who are closer to him. A tough and surreal film noir classic which is bizarre and at the same time edgy with shades of violence. 

Kiss Me Deadly is a 1955 American film noir starring Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez and Wesley Addy. Produced and Directed by Robert Aldrich, the film is based on the 1952 crime novel Kiss Me Deadly by Mickey Spillane.

The story follows another case by Mike Hammer (portrayed by Ralph Meeker), a Los Angeles Private Detective, who gives ride to an attractive hitchhiker, Christina Bailey (portrayed by Cloris Leachman)wearing nothing but a trench coat. However thugs interrupt them, torture and kill Christina, and almost kill Hammer. He then takes upon himself to investigate Christina's death and unravel the mystery behind her death.

Screenplay was provided by A. I. Bezzerides and uncredited support by Robert Aldrich. Bezzerides loosely based the plot of the film on the book, with added changes of espionage and secret government experiments, unlike the mafia plot of the book.

Mike Hammer is the creation of Mickey Spillane, famous American crime novelist. Hammer comes across as a anti-hero private eye with a penchant to bully, blackmail and beat up thugs using his fists, even resorts to pimping his secretary/lover to trap unsuspecting prey for his investigation. This is a deviation from the book version of Hammer or the radio version too.

He is a very dark gumshoe who has less morals even than the bad guys. In fact not one person in the movie has anything remotely resembling morals, much unlike an film noir. Ralph Meeker played the part efficiently, and one forgets to see Meeker and only sees Spillane. 

But the movie isn't just about Hammer, right! Look at the female characters surrounding him - Velda, Christina, Carver, Friday - every single one of them utterly beautiful, and every single one of then untrustworthy and prove to be girls from hell. Although Velda at least becomes Hammer's voice of reason at times.

Three of the four ladies - Cloris Leachman (portraying the role of Christina Bailey), Maxine Cooper (portraying the role of Velda Wakeman, Hammer's secretary) and Gaby Rodgers (portraying the role of Lilly Carver) - had their feature film debut roles. They certainly left a mark, femme fatale through and through.

The movie certainly captured Los Angeles effectively, shooting at several locations, primarily the Bunker Hill locations. It remains as a time capsule now since the Bunker Hill Locations had been destroyed in the 1960s. Another point of note for this film was that it was completed filming in less than three weeks.

The film received tons of critical distaste when it was released, even cited by Kefauver Commission as a film destined to destroy young viewers. Even Spillane didn’t like the adaptation of his novel. Despite all the negative review it is now considered as one of the most influential film noir, and has influenced several future producers and directors, especially the "suitcase" plot.

The opening credits scroll down instead of up, thus making the viewers read them from bottom to top. Also this is the first of the three Aldrich movies opening with someone crying over the opening credits. Along with the crying we get to hear Nat King Cole's Rather Have The Blues song playing on Hammer's car radio.

And Kitty White, an American jazz singer, also sings in the film in a nightclub scene.

Several actors played the part of Mike Hammer on radio, television and film. In fact Mickey Spillane himself played the role in The Girl Hunters. Other actors who portrayed Hammer were Stacy Keach, Larry Haines, Armand Assante and Kevin Dobson. According to Mickey Spillane the best Mike Hammer was portrayed by Ralph Meeker, the actor in this film. 

From the very first scene in the film there is far less compassion, and far more brutality seen in the plot. It lacked heroism, in fact even the hero was on the darker side. Every element shown in the film was years ahead of it's time. If you have seen Dirty Harry Movies or John Wick Series or Deadpool or Riddick franchise movies, then you know where it all began, a good 65 years ago.

A great tough guy detective movie where he doesn’t shy to walk in the grey lines, lives by the motive of ends justify the means, even if it hurts those who are closer to him. A tough and surreal film noir classic which is bizarre and at the same time edgy with shades of violence. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Mickey Spillane's name appears the same way as it appears on the book jacket of the original book, Kiss Me Deadly.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. In the beginning of the film, when Christina is shown running in full frame she is seen running on the side of the road. However when her feet are shown they are beside the yellow line dividing the road making it look like she is running in the middle of the road. 

b. Right before the cops come to Hammer's car at the police checkpoint, Christina holds his right hand. Once the cops clear them, we can clearly see that Hammer is using both his hands to start to drive the car. But the very next dialogue that Hammer says is "May I have my hand back now?".

c. When Hammer takes his car to the gas station and asks the guy there to check his right front wheel, we can hear "Yes Sir?" but the attendant lips are not moving.

d. Crew member visible in two scenes - once when Hammer is leaving Nick's garage, you can see a guy with baseball cap reflected in the rear quarter window; second time when Nick finds Hammer's jaguar, you can see them reflected in the driver-side door.

e. Note the shadow of the camera on the door to the right of Hammer as he is walking into his apartment. That shadow continues to reflect on Hammer as he is going through his apartment.

f. A scene that is supposed to be a span of a minute or less than a minute seems to have taken longer by the way the clock in the scene changes time from 2:10 to 2:15 to 2:20.

g. When Hammer is talking to the old man with the trunk, a microphone is briefly visible in the upper-left portion of the archway.

h. When Hammer is driving away his jaguar with Nick along his side, you can see a passers-by standing and staring at them, watching the shooting of the film. 

i. Velda says that Ray Diker called and gave two names that she put on the typewriter. But when Hammer takes the sheet there are four names listed. 

j. Kitty White is shown standing holding the microphone stand while singing. However in the mirror behind Hammer, her reflection shows her playing the piano without singing, although the song is still heard.

k. For the amount of explosion they show at the end of the film with the radioactive material, a significant portion of California would have been contaminated for years to come.


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