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Kiss Me Deadly

Blood red kisses! White hot thrills! Mickey Spillane's latest H-bomb! 

Year: 1955 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Kiss Me Deadly

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Ralph Meeker Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Maxine Cooper, Gaby Rodgers

After sleazy private detective Mike Hammer (Meeker) picks up desperate hitchhiker Christina, he soon finds himself beaten unconscious and the girl murdered. In the face of a barrage of threats and bribery, he pursues the secret behind the brutality, purely for profit. His labyrinthine investigations lead him down a trail of intrigue and to a web of paranoia which holds the secret to one of the greatest terrors of the modern world.

The film’s characters are primarily driven by greed. Hammer is heartless and narcissistic, with a contemptuous worldview and a sense of ruthless justice. However, for all his depravity, Meeker seduces the audience into almost seeing him as the “good guy.” The performance brings him to life as a sympathetic figure, yet he slots into Los Angeles’ seamy underworld with no difficulty.

Hammer’s investigation is symbolic of modernity’s dissolution into moral degeneracy; a regression which ultimately leads to the apocalypse and our return to some primordial foundation, ready for a re-enactment of violence and domination. The cinematography nurtures this haunting image through the use of black and white. In moments of anxiety, the camera is tilted and the audience is transported into the film.

Over fifty years since its initial release, Kiss Me Deadly is still accessible to the modern audience; it is shocking in its spirit, brutality and surrealism, provoking a perversely fascinating but unsettling uneasiness about the value of human life. Its audacious mix of unsavoury characters and sharp dialogue ensures that it’s a science-fiction film noir masterpiece.

Sarah Hall

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)