“Aldrich’s annihilating masterpiece, one of the decade’s key works.”
Tonight’s Saturday Cinema feature is the film noir classic, Kiss Me Deadly. This film noir stars Ralph Meeker as Mickey Spillane’s anti-social private eye Mike Hammer. “One of the most memorable of American film noir, a remarkable fusion of hard-boiled mystery and atomic horror.”
David Kohr wrote, “This independently produced low-budget film was a shining example for the New Wave directors — Truffaut, Godard, et al — who found it proof positive that commercial films could accommodate the quirkiest and most personal of visions.’
Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film noir, the most flamboyant and hectic work of the genre, opens with a pre-credit sequence that announces its blend of sexual voracity, sadism, found poetry, sharp-edged performances, and visual invention. It’s an adaptation of a pulp novel by Mickey Spillane, and its detective, the brutish Mike Hammer, has none of the suave command of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. He crashes blindly through his case—a forbidden quest for a mysterious object—leaving a trail of collateral damage, both human and cultural. Along the way, the film offers verse by Christina Rossetti; a record of Caruso; Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony; souped-up cars, and a man crushed under one; a woman on a meat hook; a whiff of narcotics; a primordial answering machine; bloody street fights; and nuclear catastrophe. The actors’ idiosyncratic voices, wrapped around such chrome-plated poetry as “the great whatsit” and “va-va-voom,” are as hauntingly musical as Aldrich’s images. In his vision of ambient terror, the apocalyptic nightmares of the atomic Cold War ring in everyone’s heads, like an alarm that can’t be shut.
— Richard Brody
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