(1955, USA, 106 min, 16mm, VOA) Robert Aldrich
One evening, detective Mike Hammer gives a ride to Christina, an attractive hitchhiker on a lonely country road, who has just escaped from the nearby lunatic asylum. Thugs chase them and force his car to crash. When Hammer returns to semi-consciousness, he hears Christina being tortured until she dies. Hammer, both for vengeance and in hopes that “something big” is behind it all, decides to pursue the case.
Kiss Me Deadly is the definitive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, science-fiction film noir of all time – at the close of the classic noir period. Producer/director Aldrich’s brutal, fast action, paranoid film with a series of disconnected scenes, was based upon pulp fiction writer Mickey Spillane’s 1952 sensationalist detective best-seller of the same name. The original posters screamed: BLOOD-RED KISSES, WHITE-HOT THRILLS!
This independent film features a cheap and sleazy, contemptible, fascistic private investigator/vigilante whose trademarks are brutish violence, the end-justifies-the-means philosophy and speed. The solitary ruthless cop selfishly pursues a white-hot apocalyptic object in a mysterious ‘Pandora’s box’ suitcase (although there is no explicit mention of the words bomb, atomic, or thermo-nuclear) Later films would repeat the motif of the mysterious box, such as Repo Man (1984) and Pulp Fiction (1994)
Kiss Me Deadly is rich with symbolic allusions, labyrinthine and complex plot threads, and Cold War fear and nuclear paranoia. The film, shot over a one month period in late 1954, is a masterpiece of cinematography, exhibited in the disorienting camera angles and unique and unconventional compositions of cinematographer Ernest Laszlo. It has all the elements of great film noir – a stark opening sequence, destructive femme fatales, low-life cheap gangsters, an anti-hero, expressionistically-lit night-time scenes, a vengeful quest, and a dark mood of hopelessness.
Guest speaker: Céline Gobert is a journalist and film critic. She regularly contributes to 24 images magazine as well as to the Mediafilm website. From 2015 to 2018, her writings on cinema were published in the cultural magazine VOIR. In 2017, she co-produced Le cinéma québécois au féminin, a book of interviews on the place of women directors in the Quebec film industry.