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Kiss Me Deadly

Dir. Robert Aldrich (1955) DVD. In their Panorama of Film Noir Borde and Chaumeton consider this the closing bookend to film noir (the opening one being The Maltese Falcon). It’s nuclear age terror certainly kicks the violence of noir up to a new level. While the protagonist, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, is far from sympathetic in almost every case, a womanizer and violent private investigator, the film has an amazing assortment of unusual secondary characters (a rather large number of accented immigrants among them). The femme fatale of the movie, who has a rather small part is played with a whiny voice and an unusual sense of phrasing. She is almost animal-like and disturbingly sensual (an interview I found informs me that she was told to play as a drug addict).

The film is slow (even the villains remain mostly anonymous and faceless), but as it progresses, it raises the pitch of tension until it explodes (literally) at the very end with a deservedly famous scene. In one scene it offers a self-parody in the form of dialogue from Hammer’s secretary/assistant Velda: “They. Who are they? The one’s looking for the myserious whatsit. What is it? No one knows. Does it exist? Who cares.”

A long piece by Alain Silver from the Film Noir Reader on Kiss Me Deadly.