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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great P.I. noir films, with the restored ending!
Robert Aldrich's 1955 detective thriller, "Kiss Me Deadly," came at the end of the American classic film noir cycle, and shows the genre at its most violent, surreal, cruel, cynical, and visually bizarre. It's the last great explosive moment of the classic era of film noir -- and I do mean explosive. This is one detective film, like "Chinatown," which you won't soon...
Published on March 19 2004 by Claude Avary

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best Mike Hammer story I've seen...
Of all the Mike Hammer entries this one is one of the most uneven. Perhaps it is because of the outstanding excellence of some of the other classic productions that this one just doesn't shine. Ralph Meeker seems a cardboard cutout of the usual Mike Hammers.
The first damsel in distress has escaped an institution ( where it turns out she had been parked by the...
Published 7 days ago by Big Bill


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great P.I. noir films, with the restored ending!, March 19 2004
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
Robert Aldrich's 1955 detective thriller, "Kiss Me Deadly," came at the end of the American classic film noir cycle, and shows the genre at its most violent, surreal, cruel, cynical, and visually bizarre. It's the last great explosive moment of the classic era of film noir -- and I do mean explosive. This is one detective film, like "Chinatown," which you won't soon forget.
Aldrich and screenwriter A. I. Bezzirides took on Mickey Spillane's popular P.I. Mike Hammer, but aside from keeping the basic plot outline of the original novel, they completely changed the nature of the character in a very reactionary move. Spillane's Mike Hammer is a New York detective-avenger, a self-righteous vigilante who deals out justice when the paralyzed forces of the law can do nothing: he's a vicious knight on a mean-spirited quest to right wrongs through brute force. (The title of the first Hammer novel, "I, the Jury" pretty much sums up his attitude.) The movie relocates Hammer to Los Angeles and turns him into a shallow con-artist who only cares about his car and his looks. He's a lousy detective too, relying on knocking people around for information, often innocent inoffensive folks, and never really paying attention to the important details of the case. His detective work is entirely matrimonial, where he and his 'assistant' Velda put the squeeze on couples to blackmail them. Hammer's motto is simple: "What's in it for me?" Ralph Meeker is perfect in the role, looking as if someone carved him out of slab of meat.
No doubt, in this story Hammer is in way over his head...if only he knew it. He picks up a nearly naked girl (Cloris Leachman in an early role) who throws herself in front of his sports car. Later, they're run off the road, and faceless gangsters torture her to dearth and leave Hammer for dead. Hammer sets out to find out what's up; not because he cares what happened to the girl, but because he sniffs out big money and he'd like to get the guys who wrecked his sports car! Hammer finds himself in a violent quest to locate an object that everyone desires: a package called 'The Great Whatsit.' The Great Whatsit isn't a meaningless red herring or Hitchcock McGuffin, however. Its contents are the great surprise of the plot, and the perfect exclamation point on a movie taking place in a chaotic world that seems to be falling apart. I won't tell what the Great Whatsit is (and shame on the reviewers here who have!), but...oh wow!
And this brings us to the issue of the ending, and the only extra on this disc. (Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil the ending.) For years, "Kiss Me Deadly" had a mysteriously abrupt finale that many people praised for its surreal, weird quality. This was how I first saw it. However, in 1997 the original ending was discovered in Aldrich's personal print of the film by editor Glenn Erickson and film noir scholar Alain Silver. Apparently, an accident involving a careless projectionist snipped off part of the ending, so what we had enjoyed and critiqued for years was actually a mistake! The new ending shown on this disc fortunately doesn't change the tone of the film: it's still pretty astonishing, filled with a brilliant use of light and sound effects. However, there's still something about that abrupt ending that gets to people. The DVD contains the option to watch this original abrupt ending so you can make up your mind which one 'feels' more right to you: what the director intended, or the mistake that many embraced as a stroke of brilliance.
No matter which ending you like, "Kiss Me Deadly" is a fabulous piece of brutal crime cinema. The photography is amazing, filled with weird and surreal images and crazy camera angles. The performances are all dead-on: Meeker's ugly Mike Hammer; Albert Dekker as the sinister and poetry spouting Dr. Soberin; Wesley Addy as Hammer's police acquaintance Pat, the sole voice of reason in the mess; Paul Stewart as a smarmy L.A. gangster; the late Jack Elam as freaky thug; and Gaby Rodgers in the film's strangest performance as the distant, weird, but ultimately very dangerous (to every living thing on the planet!) Lily Carver.
If you love detective films and film noir, "Kiss Me Deadly" is a great must-see classic. For a 1950s film, it is surprisingly violent and far ahead of its time. And either end will leave you shivering in shock. If only they had the guts to end films this way today!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best Mike Hammer story I've seen..., Aug. 14 2014
By 
Big Bill - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Criterion) (DVD)
Of all the Mike Hammer entries this one is one of the most uneven. Perhaps it is because of the outstanding excellence of some of the other classic productions that this one just doesn't shine. Ralph Meeker seems a cardboard cutout of the usual Mike Hammers.
The first damsel in distress has escaped an institution ( where it turns out she had been parked by the authorities " for her own protection") dressed only in a trench coat without even shoes. She manages to stop Mike by standing in the middle of the road in a stop for me or kill me ploy. Both subsequently are captured by the bad guys. She dies while being " questioned " by the bad guys , and they push her and Mike off a cliff and wreck his first neat car , a Jaguar. Miraculously he survives , and now he has a mystery to solve. He hooks up with another girl who seems to be the other girls roommate and pursues the trail. The cops tell him to butt out , and then revoke his P.I. license. After briefly tooling about in an MG , Mike is given a ( what I think is a ) 1953 Corvette as a bribe to butt out by the bad guys. Mike suspects the car is booby trapped and we get a nice look at the engine of the time , an inline OHV 6 cylinder as they search for what turns out to be two bombs.
The best characters are the group of ( now classic ) bad guys , including The Face , Jack Elam. Eventually Mike finds the holy grail that all are seeking , which turns out to be a box containing radioactive material. Radioactivity was fairly new at the time
and when the box is opened a blinding laser like light is emitted. In the final scene Mike rescues his secretary Velda ( no not Velma!) , as the women that pretended to be the roommate ( who was also dead long ago ) can't resist opening the Pandoras'
box containing the radioactive substance. She is consumed in the subsequent fire , allegedly caused by the radioactivity.
A curiosity is that the same screams of the original damsel in distress are reused in the final scene where the "roommate"
dies.
If this description sound dis-jointed , well that's a reflection of the movie itself. All Mike Hammer stories are worth a look , it is just that , compared to the others , this one is lacking in my opinion. Still it is worth a look for Mike Hammer / Mickey Spillane fans , and is of course , in Glorious Black & White!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kiss Me Deadly, May 11 2003
By 
J in Eugene, OR (Eugene, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
Condemned by censors, panned by critics, and banned by the Btritish when it was released in 1955 KISS ME DEADLY is today universally considered one of the definitive and perhaps most perfectly realized films noirs ever made. Director Robert Aldrich and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, both having a mutual contempt for right wing pulp novelist Mickey Spillane and all he stood for, nevertheless smartly capitalized on the extraordinary success of the author at the time, basing their film on Spillane's book of the same name while taking such drastic liberties with his story, characters, and ideologies that the finished product would be nearly unrecognizable to serious Spillane fans. This point seems to be forshadowed, as film noir scholar James Naremore has pointed out, in the weirdly reversed opening credits which seem to stand Mickey Spillane on his head.
The movie opens with divorce detective Mike Hammer(Ralph Meeker) forced to pick up a barefoot and naked-under-a-trenchcoat Christina Baily(Chloris Leachman in her first screen role)who, as we soon find out, has escaped from a mental institution and is running down the middle of a remote California road at night. When Hammer is quickly run off the road by gangsters who torture Christina to death and nearly kill Hammer himself his interest is sparked. Hammer smells something big and the cut of something big is...well, big. He decides to give the divorce work a rest and devote himself, his adoring secretary Velda(Maxine Cooper), his Greek mechanic friend Nick(Nick Dennis), and anyone else he can get to do his dirty work for him to this new mystery. The film is rich with Cold War fear and nuclear paranoia as all the characters relentless focus of selfish greed is on "the great whatsit", the mysterious glowing box of material stolen from a nuclear testing facility. Mike Hammer's detective is totally enjoyable to watch although a distinctly unfavorable and immoral character. He whores out his secretary, Velda, without remorse to adulterous husbands to wrap up divorce cases, gets his innocent friend Nick killed by involving him in the case, is a markedly poor detective, and sadistically enjoys physically punishing those who get in his way.
KISS ME DEADLY is fundamentally wrapped up in the definitions of the film noir genre, containing all the elements--a stark opening sequence on a dark road, destructive manipulating femme fatales, low-life cheap gangsters, dark expressionistically lit night-time scenes, a vengeful (or greedy?) quest, maybe the best, and most anti-, anti-hero of the noir canon, and a dark mood of hopelessness.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Feelm nwahrrr, Feb. 18 2003
By 
Max W. Hauser (Silicon Valley, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
Dark and moody and violent, more style than substance -- and enough more to make it all right (as Humphrey Bogart said in another movie in this genre). Credited with inspiring the entire French New Wave cinema movement of the late 1950s. (In one scene that would have sent those French directors, Ralph Meeker walks a deserted but lamp-lit city street late at night, trailed by a would-be assassin. Their footsteps echo in the stark landscape; their shadows are about a mile long.) Reportedly, French critical writing found deep symbolism in various scenes, whereas director Robert Aldrich responded that this was news to him, they were just shooting a detective picture. True to the spirit of the Mike Hammer novels, there is a pervasive vagueness. Who are all these thugs? (We don't even see their faces at first.) What are they after? (A nasty little radioactive Pandora's Box, we eventually learn; it is very well staged but little explained, and is ultimately a fool's prize.) Well-cast Meeker portrays unredeemed sleazy private eye Mike Hammer, whose normal line is blackmailing married men with the help of his girlfriend Velda (he carries a .45, Velda a .32). The menacing thugs, wearing baggy clothes and fedoras, we might take for NKVD (as indeed they are, in other of the Mickey Spillane novels circa 1950, and also near the end in the 1994 film _Burnt by the Sun_), but sufficient unto this film is the evil thereof, without contribution from Stalin, Beria & Co.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Noir Means Dark, and This One Is Really Dark, Jan. 19 2003
By 
Tsuyoshi (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
Most unaccountably, "Kiss Me deadly" has been long underated or neglected, like its director Robert Aldrich, whose best is probably "The Dirty Dozen" or "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." Though "Kiss Me Deadly" does not feature the incredibly campy battle between Bette and Joan, it still gives us a dynamite opening where a frantic girl is desperately running, with her foot naked, on the deserted highway at midnight. She needs a help, she says to detective Mike Hammer, who happened to be driving there. This is the start of another long day for this LA private eye.
Then follow some deaths, and threats from government agents and secret organization alike. Hammer's investigation is, as is the case with the genre, full of plot twists, but Aldrich never gets us bored with his rather laid-back direction and occassional shock materials provided for the fans. The violence (such as torture) is all suggested, not directly depicted, but the power is still there after half a century. The dialugues or situatons are all intentionally clunky, as if Aldrich is telling that the events are all happening on another planet. But his tactics work, giving the entire picture some strange feelings like another world.
We must remember that the film is made soon after the WW2, and the world is haunted with the images of nuclear age, and the conflicts between two superpowers. Clearly the weird touch of the film reinforces the uneasiness of these times found in the film, and the fears of the days are conveyed to us even now. So, nothing is fully explained; everything is suggested. You find a box, but you don't know what it is (but can guess). And the "shock" ending has not lost its power yet.
Actors are comparatively unknown except the prolific Cloris Leachman (later wins Oscar for "The Last Picture Show"), but that doesnot matter. Just watch it, and enjoy its stylish camerawor, and shocks that its audiences saw years ago. And find the possible inspiration for the "box" which Jules and Vincent had in a coffee shop in "Pulp Fiction."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cautionary Tale/Sci-Fi flick Wrapped up in Film Noir, Nov. 14 2002
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This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
This intense story starts off fast and continues at a breakneck pace until its "didn't-see-that-coming" conclusion. The ending is very atypical of the film noir genre (hence the title of my review), but everything leading up to it is noir at its finest. Ralph Meeker's portrayal of Mike Hammer is nothing short of sensational. He's the kind of guy you love to hate for how he conducts his business, but secretly wish you were half as cool. Some have noted his character as "bumbling", but I found him to be quite the opposite; he was able to handle just about any situation with either brute force or sly cleverness (ok, maybe he didn't do some follow-up work on Christina Bailey's roomate Lily Carver, which cost him, but I think we can overlook that). He's at his best when he's smacking someone around, which he does throughout. You couldn't have asked for a better performance.
I thought the development of the secondary characters was done quite well, e.g. even though Nick the mechanic didn't have much screen time, how bad did you feel for him when he met with his fate? And Doc Kennedy who performed Christina Bailey's autopsy. You could tell after 30 seconds that this guy was scum. I also enjoyed the two brutes Sugar and Charlie Max. Those guys had some of the best facial expressions ever filmed.
All this aside, my favorite aspect of the film was the cinematography. Filmed in glorious black & white so rich you'd think you were watching it unfold live in front of you. Also included are some of the best camera angles from the genre. One scene that sticks out is when Hammer tells Carver to meet him outside once she hears him honk the horn. They show Hammer running down the stairs from the vantage point of the top of the stairs. When Carver makes the same trip down they lensed it from the bottom. Really made an impact with me.
You should enjoy this movie if you have any interest in either noir or older b&w movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ONE-OF-A-KIND-MOVIE....., Oct. 7 2002
By 
Mark Norvell (HOUSTON) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
Hands down one of the best detective thrillers there is. Ralph Meeker is the ideal Mike Hammer in this down and dirty crime film. Robert Aldrich directs this at a breathless pace and with ahead of it's time style. Cloris Leachman is featured in an early role at the beginning and you don't forget her for the rest of the film. Her death by torture and her screams haunt the film (and Hammer) and you want her death avenged as much as Hammer does. His secretary, Velda, is a toothy sex-pot with the hots for him so bad you can taste it. She'll literally do ANYTHING for him. Bad girl Lily is a real psycho babe and is willing to bring the world to an end out of greedy curiosity. Her comeuppance is a vivid highlight of the climax. Women like this just weren't on the screen at the time. Only in pulp novels. But Aldrich brings them deliciously to life as motivations for Hammer to plow his way through a truly wild murder mystery and search for a "great what's-it" in pure 50's pulp style. Two endings are available on DVD but I can't see that much difference---but maybe there is. This is slick, violent adult viewing all the way. WAY out there for the time. It's classy stylish trash if there is such a thing but undeniably entertaining and superbly made. Even if you aren't a Spillane fan, you'll enjoy this. It's a great one-of-a-kind movie.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and exciting despite some quirky elements, June 21 2002
By 
Robert Moore (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
OK, I mention quirks, so let me get right to them. One involves the way the bad guy gets it in the end, so I can't say anything about it without giving away a major plot element. But it is perhaps the oddest way any character has died since a character in Charles Dickens's BLEAK HOUSE died of spontaneous combustion. Just watch the movie; you'll see what I am talking about. The other endearing quirk is some of the "hot" technology you find in it. Without any question, this film features the first answering machine in the history of cinema. A full two decades before the breakout of the answering machine in American life, there is a reel-to-reel tape machine answering machine in Mike Hammer's apartment.
Despite a hokey ending, this is a really cool film. Ralph Meeker never had the kind of career he should have had. He was charismatic, a good looking guy, and a talented actor, but had only a few roles that were plum parts. In particular, he had a very fine role as a rogue ex-calvary officer in Anthony Mann's THE NAKED SPUR, and he had a great part in Stanley Kubrick's anti-war classic PATHS OF GLORY. All things considered, his finest role was, however, playing Mike Hammer in this film.
The film has great atmosphere, a fine story (until the bizarre end), and fine acting. Stylistically, it is film noirish with a hipper edge. Mike Hammer may be a detective, but he likes to have fun as well. Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's novels always has a sense of the tragic element of life as well as its absurdity. His stance towards many of the events of his books is ironic. There is no sense of irony with Mike Hammer. He has a chip on his should just for the heck of it. He may lack Philip Marlowe's depth and complexity, but he probably gets more enjoyment out of life. He probably would also make a better dinner guest.
There is a great period feel to the film. It was made and set in the mid-1950s, but rarely have I seen a film that gives such a great sense of when it was made. It also features a great case. In particular, it is amazing to see Cloris Leachman play a part when she was young and very cute.
I thoroughly recommend this movie. It has a lot of energy, a lot of style, and tells a great yarn. And even though the ending is scientifically iffy, it is still a lot of fun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Deserving Attention, April 25 2002
By 
William Hare (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly [Import] (VHS Tape)
"Kiss Me Deadly" has been accurately termed a "long neglected classic." The good news is that the 1955 release directed by Robert Aldrich has been recently receiving the recognition it deserves. The bad news was that it came too late to help Ralph Meeker, who did a superb job of playing Mickey Spillane's detective Mike Hammer in the film. Meeker, who replaced Marlon Brando on Broadway in "Streetcar Named Desire" and later starred in "Picnic," could have profited had the film been a contemporary success in the way that Sean Connery did in his association with James Bond, which propelled him to international stardom. Meeker failed to get a break when Harry Cohn at Columbia signed the more bankable William Holden to play the male lead in the film version of "Picnic," which proved to be a soaring vehicle for newcomer Kim Novak.
Robert Aldrich presented his subject matter and the script by Hollywood veteran A.J. Bezzerides in the same hard-hitting manner he embraced in his other major hit from 1955, the highly acclaimed "The Big Knife," Clifford Odets' cynical view of Hollywood starring Jack Palance and Shelley Winters.
The film begins with Meeker as Hammer picking up Cloris Leachman on a lonely road. This was her film debut. He learns that she has escaped from a mental facility and is seeking a ride to Los Angeles. Instead Hammer is waylaid by gangsters, who kill Leachman and almost succeed in destroying the detective. Hammer's toughness pays off when he survives a three day hospital ordeal hovering on the brink of death after his sports car is pushed off the highway with himself and the already dead Leachman in it.
When Meeker is later questioned by federal authorities he realizes that this was not the death of some poor, confused soul by some angry gangsters, but something of much greater importance. They excoriate Meeker for the way he makes a living. While the detective seduces married women, his sexy secretary Velda, played by Maxine Cooper, compromises married men. As a result they are able to build up a thriving divorce business through their nefarious activities as vehicles of temptation. When Meeker-Hammer is dismissed by the federal officers, the chief investigator says sarcastically, "Open the window and let in some fresh air."
A moralist could argue that Hammer is ultimately punished for his tawdry ways since Velda is kidnapped by gangsters, who warn the detective to lay off. Instead his resolve increases to solve the case and get back his secretary unscathed. His efforts lead him into the nether world of cheap criminal activity in the Bunker Hill section near Los Angeles. Great photography reveals this shadowy world in the darkness of hallways and small rooms. On one occasion, to gain quick attention and obtain information, he coolly destroys an expensive collector's item record featuring Enrico Caruso. Hammer continues encountering tawdry figures in bedraggled settings playing beautiful classical music, contrasting the difference between a world of beauty and the nether world of tawdry brutality which the detective frequents. He encounters a ruthless gangster with a Beverly Hills mansion, Paul Stewart, who says with admiration, "You handle yourself well, Hammer" after he employs his handiwork on one of Stewart's thugs, Jack Lambert, who operates in a shadowy tandem with Jack Elam.
Eventually Hammer follows the trail to a turncoat scientist played by Albert Dekker, who is holding his secretary captive at his Malibu beach house. The object of concern is a box with highly explosive contents, as both Hammer and Velda discover by film's end.
A major question surrounds the film. Critics and historians debate whether or not Hammer actually survives at the end of the film. See the explosive ending and decide for yourself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hammer time!, March 26 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Kiss Me Deadly (Widescreen) (DVD)
One of the most necessary, and dare I say, IMPORTANT film noirs ever made. Director Robert Aldrich and screenwriter A. I. Bezzerides display, among many other great things, such a vast contempt for their source material (a "Mike Hammer" novel from Mickey Spillane) that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Their hero, as portrayed by Ralph Meeker, is a rather dim-witted cannon who, when he isn't enjoying his luxurious apartment, cars, and clothes, enjoys slamming dresser-drawers on some guy's fingers. (But the guy deserves it, being a scumbag like everyone else in the film.) The movie opens with Cloris Leachman (in her first screen role) running and panting on a deserted highway, naked under her trenchcoat. From there, it just gets weirder: a violent, ugly trip through a 1950's Los Angeles that we're not used to seeing in the movies, especially old ones. But in *Kiss Me Deadly*, one feels as if one's getting a true glimpse of the city, with its petty crime, its immigrants uneasily trying to coexist, its underground bars, its debauched crime lords, its evil antiques dealers, its bathing-suited sluts. Even the ostensible comic relief -- the Greek mechanic who worships Hammer and his cars and who's bellowing "va-va-voom-POW!" about every 10 seconds -- is so calculatedly annoying that we're rather more glad than not when he comes to a bad end. For some more surrealist touches, the main "villain" (a meaningless noun for this movie) makes references to Greek mythology . . . the poetry of Christina Rossetti is prominently featured . . . Mike Hammer displays familiarity with Grand Opera . . . the Manhattan Project becomes the "Great Whatzit" of the plot . . . on it goes. The crowning touch is the maguffin itself, a heavy box that emits blinding light whenever it's opened (Quentin Tarantino gave this bit of business a nod in his own *Pulp Fiction*). As for the apocalyptic finale, it's shocking but not surprising -- after all, what in the world of *Kiss Me Deadly* is worth saving, anyway? This movie's a furious counterpoint to 1950's complacency that I can't recommend strongly enough. [The DVD has great sound, and has the restored ending, putting to rest a lot of confused debate. You can access the original theatrical ending from the menu.]
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