Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Detective Film  |   Release Date - May 18, 1955 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Widely considered the best (if loosest) film adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel, Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955) features Spillane hero Mike Hammer in the ultimate Cold War paranoia investigation. With macho "bedroom dick" Hammer using any violence necessary, this darkest of 1950s films noirs sends him on a search for the "Great Whatsit," an ominously incandescent box encompassing America's nuclear nightmares, as well as man's deepest fears about unpredictably explosive female potency. Starring Ralph Meeker as the brutal Hammer, Kiss Me Deadly is shot through with Aldrich's anarchic sensibility, from Cloris Leachman's desperate opening run along a pitch-black road to the final apocalyptic conflagration. While the film was dismissed by U.S. reviewers, the French Cahiers du cinéma critics praised Kiss Me Deadly's hysterically expressionist style and singular power, as then-critic François Truffaut declared Aldrich the revelation of 1955. Later rediscovered by American film buffs, Kiss Me Deadly has since assumed its rightful place in the film noir pantheon, and films from Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984) to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) have paid homage to that evocatively glowing container. The 1998 restoration returned the final minute-and-a-half of footage to 35mm prints, dramatically altering the film's conclusion.