The Essential Movie Library #86: Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

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

Sex and violence in one title

Marlowe 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 Mohicans
The Essential Movie Library #84: La Belle Noiseuse
The Essential Movie Library #83: Goldfinger / GoldenEye / Skyfall
The Essential Movie Library #82: The Bourne Trilogy
The Essential Movie Library #81: Zero Dark Thirty
The Essential Movie Library #80: A Place in the Sun
The Essential Movie Library #79: Boogie Nights
The Essential Movie Library #78:  Le Samouraï
The Essential Movie Library #77: The Wild Bunch
The Essential Movie Library #76: Barton Fink
The Essential Movie Library #75: The Spirit of the Beehive
The Essential Movie Library #74: Sexy Beast
The Essential Movie Library #73: Groundhog Day
The Essential Movie Library #72: Rear Window
The Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 Blows
The Essential Movie Library #70: Blue Velvet
The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove
The Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle Thieves
The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love / 2046
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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