Kiss Me Deadly  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Kiss Me Deadly (1955) is a film noir drama produced and directed by Robert Aldrich starring Ralph Meeker. The screenplay was written by A.I. Bezzerides, based on the Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery novel Kiss Me, Deadly.

Kiss Me Deadly is considered a classic of the noir genre. References (usually to the glowing briefcase) appear in such diverse films as Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984), Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) and Richard Kelly's Southland Tales (2007).

"The great whatsit," as Velda calls it, at the center of Hammer's quest is a small, mysterious valise that is hot to the touch and contains a dangerous, glowing substance. It comes to represent the 1950s Cold War fear and paranoia about the atomic bomb that permeated American culture.

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words "The End" come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film's original negative, removing over a minute's worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words "The End" over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the End of the World. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored. The DVD release has the correct original ending, and offers the now-discredited (but influential) truncated ending as an extra.

Contents

Critical reviews

Critical commentary generally views it as a metaphor for the paranoia and nuclear fears of the Cold War era in which it was filmed.

Although a leftist at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, Bezzerides denied any conscious intention for this meaning in his script. About the topic, he said, "I was having fun with it. I wanted to make every scene, every character, interesting."

Film critic Nick Schager wrote, "Never was Mike Hammer's name more fitting than in Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich's blisteringly nihilistic noir in which star Ralph Meeker embodies Mickey Spillane's legendary P.I. with brute force savagery...The gumshoe's subsequent investigation into the woman's death doubles as a lacerating indictment of modern society's dissolution into physical/moral/spiritual degeneracy—a reversion that ultimately leads to nuclear apocalypse and man's return to the primordial sea—with the director's knuckle-sandwich cynicism pummeling the genre's romantic fatalism into a bloody pulp. 'Remember me'? Aldrich's sadistic, fatalistic masterpiece is impossible to forget."

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on nineteen reviews."

Plot

Ralph Meeker plays Mike Hammer, a tough Los Angeles private eye who is just slightly less brutal and corrupt than the crooks he chases.

One evening, Hammer gives a ride to Christina (Cloris Leachman), an attractive hitchhiker he picks up on a lonely country road who has escaped from the nearby lunatic asylum, held it later emerges by the authorities for interrogation.. Thugs waylay them and force his car to crash. When Hammer returns to semi-consciousness, he hears Christina being tortured until she dies. Hammer, both for vengeance and in hopes that "something big" is behind it all, decides to pursue the case.

It develops that "the great whatsit" (as Hammer's assistant Velda (Maxine Cooper) calls it) at the center of Hammer's quest is a small, mysterious valise that is hot to the touch and contains a dangerous glowing substance.

It is ultimately revealed to be stolen radionuclide material, which in an apocalyptic final scene apparently reaches explosive criticality when the box is fully opened.

Alternate ending

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words "The End" come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film's original negative, removing over a minute's worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words "The End" over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the End of the World. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored. The DVD release has the correct original ending, and offers the now-discredited (but influential) truncated ending as an extra.

Cast

Awards

In 1999, Kiss Me Deadly was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Differences from the novel

The original novel, while providing much of the plot, is about a mafia conspiracy and does not feature espionage and the nuclear suitcase, elements added to the film version by the scriptwriter, A.I. Bezzerides.

It further subverted Spillane's book by portraying the already tough Hammer as a narcissistic bully, the darkest of anti-hero private detectives in the film noir genre. He apparently makes most of his living by blackmailing adulterous husbands and wives, and he takes an obvious sadistic pleasure in violence, whether he's beating up thugs sent to kill him, breaking an informant's treasured record collection, or roughing up a coroner who's slow to part with a piece of information. Bezzerides wrote of the script: "I wrote it fast because I had contempt for it ... I tell you Spillane didn't like what I did with his book. I ran into him at a restaurant and, boy, he didn't like me."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kiss Me Deadly" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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