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C&L's Sat Nite Chiller Theater: 'Kiss Me Deadly' (1955)

I changed it up tonight for a little film noir insane madness!

This doesn't really rate as a horror movie, even though it has horror elements, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Not sure what a macguffin is? You'll know after this flick.

The wonderful Ralph Meeker plays Mickey Spillane, crazed private eye looking for revenge. From the opening scene, Robert Aldrich breaks the Hollywood mold and immerses you in his bizarre world.

Chicago Reader:

The end of the world, starring Ralph Meeker (at his sleaziest) as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (at his most neolithic). Robert Aldrich's 1955 film is in some ways the apotheosis of film noir—it's certainly one of the most extreme examples of the genre, brimming with barely suppressed hysteria and set in a world totally without moral order. Even the credits run upside down. 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.

Jim Emerson describes the opening of the movie, brilliantly.

But for good reason. Robert Aldrich’s masterful noir hits you with a hysterical bang that sets its frenzied tone with such balls-out experimental élan; you can’t believe the film was released in 1955:

Before any credit sequence, the film begins with a pair of naked feet running down the middle of a highway in the black of the night.

The feet belong to a hysterical, heavily panting blonde (Cloris Leachman) wearing only a trench-coat. As the soundtrack intensifies, cars pass by but none stop. Desperate for a ride, she places herself in the middle of the road and stands holding her arms out in a V. Finally, a cool little Jaguar sports car comes to a screeching halt, blinding her with its headlights and swerving to the side of the road. She walks towards the car, roughly breathing and panting but with some relief. The driver, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is agitated by this mystery woman/potential loony, begrudgingly “rescuing" her with a sneer. He spits:

“You almost wrecked my car. Well? Get in!"


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As the woman enters the car, you hear a velvety-voiced female DJ announce a Nat King Cole song on the car radio. With the camera placed behind our two characters (one absolutely frantic, the other as cool as a cucumber), the credits roll upside down against the highway’s white lines. The only thing you hear is Nat King Cole’s elegant “Rather Have the Blues" and the woman’s hard, almost sexual sounding hyper-ventilating.

I’m still amazed by how totally perverse and subversive Aldrich’s kick start remains. How many pictures, even current pictures, would have the guts to place a viewer on this kind of edge? But he’s not playing simply for shock—Aldrich and cinematographer Ernest Laszlo instantly address the expressionistic, off kilter and monstrous universe we’re about to enter.

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