Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Kiss Me DeadlyKiss Me Deadly Poster
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by A.I. Bezzerides based on the novel by Mickey Spillane
Parklane Pictures Inc.
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#308 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


Velda: You want to avenge the death of your dear friend. How touching. How sweet. How nicely it justifies your quest for the great whatsit.

I still don’t exactly understand how the conspiracy was supposed to work here but it doesn’t matter much anyway. Style is the thing and this move is full to over-flowing with it.

Tough-guy private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is driving down a lonely road in his ultra-cool convertible at night when he is waved down by a frantic blonde, Christine (Cloris Leachman in her big-screen debut).  She takes one look at the car and has Mike’s number “You have only one real lasting love – you.”   Christine is clearly terrified.  She has just escaped from an asylum and is naked under her coat.  She tells Mike to forget her if he is able to deliver her to her bus stop.  If not she pleads, “Remember me.”

They do not make it to the bus stop.  The car is waylaid by some mysterious men and the two are taken to a secret location where they are evidently pumped full of drugs.  Mike has hazy, hallucinatory dreams.  When the men are through with them they take the car and push it off a cliff.  Christine dies but Mike survives and wakens from a coma to the ministrations of his secretary/lover Velda and the unwanted attentions of Lt. Murphy, who takes away Mike’s P.I. license and gun permit.

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Mike decides that, if Christine knew something, it must be valuable and, ignoring his lack of official sanction, investigates it.  He meets many shady characters and witnesses throughout the very convoluted plot.  Suffice it to say that he comes to blows with most of them and tortures the rest. The exception is Christine’s roommate Lily, who is afraid of a similar fate.  To her he gives shelter.  Otherwise, the mayhem continues until the spectacular climax that closes the film.  With Albert Dekker and Jack Elam as bad guys and Percy Hilton as a pathologist.

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As an exercise in pure B-movie style with all the stops pulled out, this is hard to beat.  It was hard to select stills.  They are all so awesome.  But they don’t fully capture the visual artistry of the film with its crazy angles and roaming camera.  The dialogue is a pulpy delight and the delivery of the actors matches it perfectly.  I imagine that Godard and Tarantino got a lot of inspiration from this one.  Highly recommended for those that like this kind of thing.

Trailer – cinematography by Ernest Lazlo

3 thoughts on “Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

    • Maybe Tarantino got it right with the briefcase. On the other hand, I’m glad it contained something that gave us that mind-blowing ending with the house and the sea.

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