Monday, June 28, 2010

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Is that plutonium in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Sometimes you're just sitting around, watching a perfectly normal movie when something absolutely bizarre happens. Kiss Me Deadly has a moment that seriously punches you upside the head with confusion. From that moment on, the movie is a frantic, confusing journey towards a, literally, explosive finish. Kiss Me Deadly is a total anomaly for me. There is something quite intriguing about it's traditional film noir structure, and doubly intriguing about it's wacky plot twist, but for some reason the movie still left me less than satisfied.

Kiss Me Deadly has most of the classic film noir elements and a few surprises of it's own. The hardboiled detective Mike Hammer, yes that is his real name, picks up a frantic women in the middle of nowhere and finds himself caught up in some sort of sinister plot. The women is murdered and Mike Hammer decides to try and solve the case. At some point, he finds the arc of the covenant and stuff starts to explode. The film features a lot of no names, but it was the film debut for Cloris Leachman. The film was generally praised in it's time, but has slowly but surely gained acclaim as one of the more important films of it's genre. At the very least, it's plot twists make it one of the more unique entires in classic film noir.

What works in Kiss Me Deadly is the generally good performances and the snappy dialog. The film features a very solid ensemble cast with Ralph Meeker and Maxine Cooper giving admirably performances. Unfortunately, there are also some really obnoxious performances, such as Mike's mechanic friend who is a walking, annoying stereotype. This, along with the really eye-catching plot twist make the movie generally enjoyable to watch, but in the end, the movie is more confusing than anything else. I am all for a movie that leaves questions unanswered, but Kiss Me Deadly is kind of a disaster in the plot development nightmare. The movie leaves lots of loose ends and the finale of the film feels entirely rushed. As memorable as the closing minutes of the film are, they are marred by the sense that the filmmakers simply ran out of run time to explain some important story elements.

I'm still not sold on classic film noir. While there are some things I enjoy, like the rampant sexism, the movies are, overall, kind of dull. Kiss Me Deadly is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not the most exciting two hours of film making I have seen. Is it worthy to be on the list? Sure, but the film does little for me in the long run. At the very least, it kept me engaged for it's run-time even if it didn't try to answer many of the questions that kept my interest.



The Floating Red Couch said...

Watched this in one of my Cinema Studies class at the (2010 BCS Champion) University of Washington -- it felt like the most random movie I've ever seen. The whole thing struck me as being a non-sequitor.

Alfindeol said...

Exactly how I felt! You went to UW? I went to high school in Issaquah! Good luck with the whole BCS champion thing. ;p

The Floating Red Couch said...

Ah, a Northwester -- where did you end up after H.S.?

I lived in Seattle for 7 years and got out when it became abundantly apparent that I had visited every bar, ate at every good restaurant, and there was no work for me. Ironically enough, I now work at Microsoft in California.

Alfindeol said...

Strangely enough, I ended up in Korea. I went to Florida State University (the REAL 2010 BCS champs) and then I left the country to teach English.