Friday, February 1, 2013

KISS ME DEADLY (1955) movie review

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA)

Wow. Mix Mickey Spillane with a little atomic paranoia and you’ve got a recipe for fast-paced, two-fisted, tough-talking thrills, with a climactic sock to the jaw that rivals anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. Ralph Meeker, who would wind up his career fighting aliens and giant rats in Without Warning and Food Of The Gods, is outstanding as taciturn private eye Mike Hammer. One catches glimpses of Jack Nicholson and Kevin Costner in his performance – the nice looking guy who’s revealed to be a hardened heel through and
through, yet always seemingly fighting the fight worth fighting.

From its backward running opening titles, this is an upside down world where nothing is what it seems. Meeker nearly wrecks his jalopy avoiding a mysterious, panicked, naked-for-a-raincoat Cloris Leachman (making a dynamic big screen debut) and is sent spiraling into a mystery that gets darker and more twisted with every passing second. Insane scientists, corrupt cops, duplicitous dames and a "great whatsit" all figure into the mix, with an outstanding supporting cast that includes Albert Dekker, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, Fortunio Bonanova, Wesley Addy, Juano Hernandez, Paul Stewart, Marian Carr, and Robert Cornthwaite.

Shot like a horror film with dark shadows and a darker underbelly, a palpable sense of dread hangs over the proceedings like a damp overcoat, a quality that Aldrich would bring to his gothic efforts of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. Even if you think you don’t like detective stories or noir, check this one out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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