The Essential Movie Library #86: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

first_imgFilmThe Essential Movie Library #86: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)Sex and violence in one titleBy Steve Erickson – July 8, 20141117ShareEmailFacebookTwitterPinterestReddItMarlowe After the Fall, Part One: If the 20th century’s most famous private eye, Philip Marlowe, was invented by Raymond Chandler before the crime genre took on the existentialism and panache of noir, Mike Hammer was the post-noir reboot. Hammer isn’t burdened by any code or by any pretensions to a tarnished urban knighthood. Unlike Marlowe, who often wears his heart on his sleeve even when he hopes no one will notice, Hammer wears his psyche on his zipper; where Marlowe is wary of slinky women, Hammer would have his way with all of The Big Sleep’s bad girls and make short work of them at that. Elbowing aside Marlowe to assume the vigilante watch of L.A.’s mean streets, in Kiss Me Deadly Hammer is played by Ralph Meeker with a nihilist brutality that makes Humphrey Bogart look like a missionary (which, as it happened, is exactly what he was in The Left Hand of God the same year).This was only director Robert Aldrich’s fourth film, but having worked as an assistant to Chaplin and Renoir he was feeling the corrosive venality of the business (his next picture would be The Big Knife, one of a number of the period’s anti-Hollywood films). As a result Kiss Me Deadly (sex and violence in one title!) has a relentlessness that wasn’t just extraordinary in its time but unprecedented, taking noir as far as it would ever go and establishing the template for the likes of L.A. Confidential and Sin City; afterward, the romanticism that infused even the darkest noirs was finished. Though noir’s nuclear identity was always latent—its visceral attractions of mayhem and carnal obsession lurking in the shadow of obliteration that distinguished the times—Kiss Me Deadly is openly and unmistakably radioactive. Studio tampering with the ending only raised its apocalyptic stakes. Forty years later, when the hit men of Pulp Fiction (Essential Movie Library #67) open a suitcase and stumble on this picture’s incandescent fury, be it the face of God or the Void, one of them winds up dead and the other quoting scripture.The Essential Movie Library #85: The Last of the MohicansThe Essential Movie Library #84: La Belle NoiseuseThe Essential Movie Library #83: Goldfinger / GoldenEye / SkyfallThe Essential Movie Library #82: The Bourne TrilogyThe Essential Movie Library #81: Zero Dark ThirtyThe Essential Movie Library #80: A Place in the SunThe Essential Movie Library #79: Boogie NightsThe Essential Movie Library #78:  Le SamouraïThe Essential Movie Library #77: The Wild BunchThe Essential Movie Library #76: Barton FinkThe Essential Movie Library #75: The Spirit of the BeehiveThe Essential Movie Library #74: Sexy BeastThe Essential Movie Library #73: Groundhog DayThe Essential Movie Library #72: Rear WindowThe Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 BlowsThe Essential Movie Library #70: Blue VelvetThe Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. StrangeloveThe Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle ThievesThe Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp FictionThe Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! 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