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Daily Dose of Darkness #17: Deadly Kiss Me (Opening Scene of Kiss Me Deadly)


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  • What are some of the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of Kiss Me Deadly?

An innovative backwards credit sequence, Nat King Cole's lament that "I'd rather have the blues than what I've got" sort of foreshadowing the events to come. Lonely highway with naked girl in a trench coat.

 

  • What do we learn or discern about the characters of Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) and private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) in this brief introductory sequence?

Christina Baliey has escaped from an asylum, she is naked under a stolen trench coat, she is desperate to hitch a ride out of the area. PI Mike Hammer has been transported to the West Coast, he is now a California PI, drives a Porsche, listens to the Blues. He's not your Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler knight in trench coat anymore. He wouldn't have stopped for Christina if she merely hitch-hiked.

  • How is this opening scene an important contribution to the development of film noir?

It turns the traditional Hard Boiled PI from a knight of the streets solving convoluted cases into a "bedroom dick" who sets up divorce cases.

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I am struck by the unsexiness of a naked woman running barefoot and making erotic gasping sounds. Mike Hammer is the antithesis of a suave love-interest, in fact he is downright hostile. At the road block, this dynamic is turned on its head when the woman tentatively takes Mr Hammer's hand and pretends to be something sexy: a sleepy wife. At this point, her gasping stops.

Christina is the anti-femme fatale. It's like the whole concept has been turned upside down and inside out. It's Noir made dirty and ugly and crassly "modern". She's a femme *fatal*. 

 

We learn that Christina Bailey will do anything necessary for self preservation.

 

We learn that Mike Hammer is an unrepentent **** but he reads situations at a level more subtle than we are lead to believe.

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Kiss Me Deadly offers an incredible opening that forcefully hurls the viewer into Christina and her troubles. No time is wasted! The mix of the pitter patter of her feet on the asphalt and her nearly crashing into the camera in crash zoom fashion captures her overwhelming anxiety and breathlessness. Her desperation is visceral, to the point that she is even willing to put herself in harm's way as she surrenders in the middle of the busy road. The headlights of Mike Hammer's car function as a beacon of hope, a form of escape from where she's been. The disorder of the opening credits create a disorientation in the viewer, matching Christina's own disorientation at the start. Her hyperbolic gasps mixed with Nat King Cole's smooth, gentle jazz voice are an anomaly and severely incongruent. We get an amalgamation of acute groans and gasps, verging on the sexual and the neurotic (as Prof. Edwards states) and Cole's soothing voice. Something isn't right. The opening credits' sequence feels schizophrenic, much like the imbalanced culture of the postwar 50s amid the Red Scare, Cold War annihilation, excessive consumerism and 50s family ideals. With Cole's singing overhead and her gasps bathing together, fear and distress are being masked and are attempting to be smothered by cool, laidback jazz. But we are certainly not being fooled. 

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I love the opening of "Kiss Me Deadly."  I was suffering as I watched Cloris Leachman running in her bare feet.  Yikes, that must have hurt.  Altogether, aside from the bare feet, she looked pretty put together.  Crisp, clean trenchcoat, but no pocketbook.  Boy, does Ralph Meeker look young!  But the credits are the most disarming thing about the opening.  They run backwards.  I have never seen that before.  I am not sure why Meeker didn’t turn Cloris in at the roadblock since he just said he should have thrown her off a cliff.  Why do people do what they do?  Tempting fate?  Looking for thrills?  I’ll be looking forward to watching this movie Friday at 9:45 p.m.  

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So interesting, even though I've never seen the film and know little to nothing about Mike Hammer.  Given that ignorance. . . 

 

A couple of things about Hammer's character displayed in this sequence.  His extremely rough exterior--?suggesting he should have ditched her over the cliff after guessing she was assaulted?--is clear, and he speaks to her in a demeaning manner.  He sees her more as a temporary headache despite his trash talk toward her.  What quickly changes his assessment of her, however, is when he sees the line up of police vehicles and learns she is sought as an escapee from an asylum.  I have to wonder if, once some major pieces come together as to his passenger's situation, he has suddenly decided that there is something potentially very intriguing in this for him when he silently agrees to her silent request that he not give her away to the cops.  

 

We know independent from this sequence in the film that he is a private detective.  A very desperate yet very smart woman--as clearly identified from all the features described in earlier posts--and very desperate cops--all those police cars and lights, stopping all traffic, making inquiries of all drivers/passengers--combine to tell him that he's got a lion by the tail, so to speak.  His motivation in protecting her from the police may be less due to his interior nugget of goodness and perhaps attributed more to the obvious potential for irresistible intrigue in taking this woman on as a client now that he knows more.  Thus, he says Christina is his wife in order to get her past the police checkpoint.

 

That he also describes her as his wife suggests to me that he's made his commitment, right then and there, to take on this client and stick with her to the end of whatever wild ride lies ahead.  He doesn't describe her as his girlfriend, fiance or something less committed in terms of their fake relationship when talking to the police.  Saying she's his wife seems to underscore a different level of commitment he made as a private eye for hire.  Especially since she clearly needs more than routine PI services.  

 

Again, I don't know the Hammer series or this film; on the other hand, . . . .

That is a very interesting point about Mike Hammer saying she is his wife. I didn't really catch that but I think you're right it does show a higher level of commitment.
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Today's clip of the opening for "Kiss Me Deadly" throws us straight into the action, with no explanation, following a trend we've been seeing in other pictures (such as "Act of Violence" and "The High Wall"). In this case, we're in the thick of it before the credits even roll.

 

Mike Hammer is the toughest of tough guys. Confronted by this woman in great distress, his first response is "You almost wrecked my car." This is not Raymond Chandler's "man...who is not himself mean." Hammer may be meaner than the streets he goes down. He even threatens to throw Christina off a cliff.

 

Yet when he learns the police are after this escapee from an asylum, all it takes is for her to desperately squeeze his hand and in an instant he covers for her.

 

The credits sequence is notable not only for the graphics that come down the screen as if they are painted on the road, but also for continuing the sounds of Christina's gasping and sobbing. Where most Hollywood movies of the time would have given full play to the Nat King Cole song, here the sounds of the character are insistent, not letting the audience forget her terror and desperation.

 

Every aspect of this opening shows Bezzerides and Aldrich are going to keep us rushing headlong at top speed, jumping over exposition and other niceties of traditional Hollywood filmmaking, creating a palpable excitement.

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This opening immediately places the viewer in a place of mystery and suspense. Cloris Leachman just emerges from the darkness, running barefoot down the highway, looking over her shoulder, and in absolute terror. What the heck is going on? We don't know who she is, where she's been, why she is barefoot and naked under that trenchcoat, who she's running from, or why she is so terrified that she would stand in the path of a speeding car to get away. What unthinkable things have been done to her to provoke her reckless flight and her desparate glances over her shoulder? This sense of an unseen terror and absolute dread is perfectly in tune with the darker themes emerging in films noir. The scene plays like a noirer noir.

 

Enter Mike Hammer. He's so jaded his reaction is to be angry with her for causing him to stop. He doesn't ask any of the questions that the viewers have been asking themselves. Then again, we wonder why he covers for Leachman at the road block. Maybe there's a softer side to him. But probably not.

 

I think this opening is an important contribution to noir in the way that it immediately begins with action. Forget exposition, just cut to the chase, or in this case the flight of the victimized woman.

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The lyrics of the song playing in the car capture what is happening in the clip:

The night is mighty chilly
And conversation seems pretty silly
I feel so mean and rot
I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

The room is dark and gloomy
You don’t know what you’re doing to me
The web has got me caught
I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

All night I walk the city
Watching the people go by
I try to sing a little ditty
But all that comes out is a sigh

The street looks very frightening
The rain begins and then comes lightning
It seems love’s gone to pot
I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

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Novelist Elmore Leonard's advice to writers to leave out the boring parts that readers tend to skip is good advice for filmmakers, too. That is evident in the opening to "Kiss Me Deadly." There is nothing at all boring about an opening scene that shows an out-of-breath woman sprinting down a highway in an escape from an asylum wearing nothing but a trench coat -- and wanting to be dropped off at the first bus station in Los Angeles. Something tells me they won't get there. I'll keep watching to find out what happens next, though. I'm intrigued, and definitely not bored.

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Wow! this is one of the most energetic, pulse racing openings to a film I've seen in a long time! we don't know who or what this woman is running from, but the way she's running, with such franticness, is a pretty good indication that she's running from something horrible and/or dangerous to her. The dark blackness of the night behind her grey figure as she's running is severve but effective, and screams of film noir in the best ways possible.

 

We get a pretty good indication of who this Mike Hammer character is by the first thing he says: “You almost wrecked my car." He has no apparent sympathy or care for this woman who's obviously distressed and in need of help. This tells us a great deal about his character and how very different he is from the detectives of 1940s film noir; he's obviously hard and cynical, but there's a huge absence of what made the detectives of '40s film noir special: charm and charisma--even if they only had a little, they had it. Hammer seems absolutely devoid of either of those two qualities. Perhaps that makes him more realistic, a detective more of the real world. Not a hero, but a flawed, hard to like character. That's just my assessment from the clip; I've not yet seen the whole movie (I'm really looking foward to seeing it on friday), so maybe the character becomes easier to take.

 

Also, the soft, romantic music of Nat King Cole overlapped with Leachman's loud panting and sobbing really creates an interesting juxtaposition of overlapped romanticism and hard, painful reality. The opening credits altogether are very interesting, inventive and very different from anything I've seen in terms of opening credits before.

 

The first few minutes of this film are great and intriguing! I can't wait to see the whole thing!

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  • What are some of the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of Kiss Me Deadly

To me, the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of Kiss Me Deadly are: Fear, Panic, Mystery, Intrigue, Desperation, Eroticism, Neuroticism, the Characters that populate the world of film noir, and Disorientation.

  • What do we learn or discern about the characters of Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) and private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) in this brief introductory sequence?

From this brief introductory sequence, we (the audience) learn several things about the characters of Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) and private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker).

 

First, in regard to Leachman’s character, we learn that Christina Bailey has been running for what seems like an undetermined amount of time on a mostly deserted highway from something or someone.

 

In addition to this, we also learn that she will do anything to hitchhike a ride like almost being run over by Mike Hammer’s car in order to get away from it.

 

When Mike Hammer tells Christina that she almost wrecked his car then gives her a glance over, we learn that Ralph Meeker’s character is a streetwise hard-boiled person who can deduce things very quickly.

 

He can tell she’s a woman in major trouble, but what kind of trouble is the real question.

 

Once they are traveling inside Mike’s car, Mike further shows the audience his cynical attitude by telling her, “Your thumb isn’t good enough for you, you’ve gotta use your whole body?”

 

To which Christina replies, “Would you have stopped if I had used my thumb?”

 

From this brief exchange of dialogue, we (the audience) learn that both the main characters for this story are mysterious, twisted, and cynical by this point. Mike even further investigates her with a line of even more cynical questions like “Do you always go around with no clothes on?”

 

When they reach the roadblock up ahead, they overhear a police officer tell another driver that they are looking for a woman who escaped from a mental hospital that is young and wearing a trench coat. 

 

Christina grabs Mike’s hand and gives him a desperate look and he quickly deduces the situation.

 

He quickly uses his wits and tells the officers that he hasn’t seen a thing and that his wife (Christina) has been asleep.

 

Thanks to his quick thinking, the officers wave the couple through the roadblock.

 

-- How is this opening scene an important contribution to the development of film noir?

 

To me, I believe that this opening scene is an important contribution to the development of the film noir style in several ways.

 

First, this opening sequence weaves the major themes for this story together in a subtle way that is almost seamless. The themes I noted above can be noticed from Christina running barefoot on the deserted road to Mike’s desperate quick thinking that gets them through the roadblock.

 

Secondly, I also thought it was amazing how the director used audio and visual effects to draw the audience into the atmosphere of this film. 

 

For example, the contrast between Christina’s heavy breathing and Nat King Cole’s song I’d rather have the blues leaves the audience in a state of wonderment that is a blur between eroticism and neuroticism.

 

Even the film’s innovative use of the title design that runs backwards adds to the audience’s sensory overload and disorientation from the film.

 

Thirdly, I believe that this opening scene of Kiss Me Deadly (1955) adds style and substance to the film noir style by showing how tone and special effects (even extremely simple auditory and visual effects) can draw the film’s audience into the story in very subtle ways and also highlight the atmosphere of the film.

 

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Elements of film noir seen in this opening clip of Kiss Me Deadly include a low camera angle, disturbing  nagging sounds (her never ending cries/moans and her rapid foot steps), and the dead of night setting. Like the opening scene in Out of the Past, there are no references as to where we are; no street signs, no town, no neighborhoods. We are lost. The outside setting is an element of the later noir style in that we are not in the studio, but literally out on the street somewhere. 
Although the detective is unaffected by her, he helps her. He is as disillusioned as she is and almost as helpless; his car just about breaks down, almost leaving them both stranded. He is helpful, but he is on the edge of needing help himself. The reference that she has just escaped an asylum is an example of the psychological world entering film noir as a motif. He is sympathetic to her, as he could have turned her over to the police but did not. He regards himself as above the law, or rather he lives by his own law (a nod to existentialism). While she continues on an on with these annoying noises, he is quiet. She has entered his world, but he has not budged from his.

From the barefoot running at night, to the credits all running upward/backward, we are put in an uncomfortable third wheel movie chair. There is no room in the car for us, yet we ride along, police lights in our faces. We are now a part of this journey of a disaster that is about to unfold. 

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In the study of character, as it equates to the themes of the week, the archetypes of Christina and Hammer are just as described in the profiles of the Porfirio reading, "No Way Out". Classically, Hammer is your detached anti-hero. He is outside judgment, complete with the self-indulgent sports car, and seems only interested in entertaining himself. All of his statements made are flippant, dismissive, and completely without compassion for this Christina's situation. 

 

From Hammer's point of view, you get the presentation of the absurd, i.e. Christina nearly killing the both of them, dressed in nothing but a trench coat in the middle of a rural highway. Yet despite his comments, Hammer is really unfazed. It becomes clear that he is cool under fire as he covers for Christina when they meet the police checkpoint that is set up to look for her. 

 

An array of sensory stimuli hit the viewer from the beginning. The experience of violence and paranoia are way we empathizes with Christina's entry in the film. Though we don't know why, we still feel her pain, fear, and desperation. 

 

Christina's character seems to be a unique femme fatale figure in that she has apparently escaped from an insane asylum. Now, desperation will drive some people to do many absurd and irrational things, and this has certainly been the motivation for many of the femme fatale figures of the past, but usually the viewer isn't so obviously confronted with just how insane a character might be. Here, Christina is packaged as clinically insane. Yet, Hammer cover's for her. In and of itself, that is also very absurd. He could have "thrown her over the cliff", but instead invites the "crazy" into his life. 

 

Camus', "The Myth of Sisyphus" is about this very motif. Sisyphus is condemned to an eternal punishment of rolling a boulder up a hill, and can only stop when it stays, but the boulder always rolls back down. The meaninglessness, and hopelessness of his life is obvious to all. However, Sisyphus continues. Why? That is the existential choice mentioned by Porfirio. It is the seemingly absurd "faith" that keeps him going. Maybe, just one day, that stone will stay. Therefore, he has created his own meaning and raison d'etre. Out of his apparent futility comes the meaning itself. 

 

Hammer is like this man in the sense that he is a private eye for the subconscious reason of wanting to make meaning and logic out of a world that constantly throws him futility, irrationality, meaninglessness, despair, and hopelessness. Hammer is like the 'over-man' of Nietzsche's, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". The idea that we aspire to an ideal, but at the same time we are not. It is interesting to contrast the comic superheroes emerging at the same time the noir style was developing. Comic superheroes were just that, the "over-men" diametrically juxtaposed against the underworld. However, the would-be heroes of noir were not 'over-men', but were doomed to the same lonely alienated existence that a hero would be. 

 

In the setting, Hammer picks up Christina, we see the credits roll in reverse, but we also see him (this possible hero or "overman") suddenly going through tunnels signifying Hammer's journeying into the "underworld" as he embraces the absurdity of Christina's situation.  He won't be able to predict the impact it will make on his life. Now it is up to fate, and faith. Both equally absurd.

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Escape is a dominant theme in Kiss Me Deadly. The film opens with the running, shoeless feet belonging to a woman sprinting down a highway in the night. She is shrouded in darkness, with the exception of oncoming and then passing by headlights. She tries desperately to hitch a ride, and succeeds in doing so by standing in the middle of the road. We only know the woman is most likely fearful since she is running away from something or someone.

 

Doom is also a prevalent theme in this film. Clearly, the fleeing woman will have people tailing her. This brings about trouble for the man who agrees to give her a ride. Film noir always has doom as a theme, as clearly indicated by the darkness of the night.

 

The woman, Christina, is trying to escape from her current situation, and is adamant in doing so. This shows persistence and a will to succeed. However, since there isn't too much known just yet, Christina could also be The Femme Fatale. So, maybe she escaped through manipulation. The man, Mike, seems somewhat tough in his demeanor by the way he speaks. If Christina had not literally stepped in front of his car, it's unlikely he would have stopped to help.

 

Kiss Me Deadly has a very intriguing opening that grabs attention from the beginning. The immediate introduction of the potential Femme Fatale to Mike, who I presume is the hero of the film, heightens film noir as a style and genre. This indicates we are in for a ride of twists and turns that we most likely will never see coming.

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Before anything else, I'd like to address the backwards titles, which are unexpected and creative, overlaid on the street and the running car, mimicking typical street markings that are always written in reverse. If this film were made today, the titles would likely appear directly on the road, graphically treated to look like real street markings, only to disappear one by one as the car drives over them.

 

Onto the characters...

 

Christina is clearly desperate, fully aware that she could be caught at any moment, and perhaps surprised that she's made it that far. Judging from her continuous panting, she's been running for a long while. It's a nice touch that her panicked breathing is in stark contrast to Nat King Cole's calm and smooth number on the radio. Her panting also adds a nice repetition to the soundscape that we've seen already in several films noir.

 

Mike is irritated, but also perhaps a bit curious. Who is this woman? Why did she escape? He wants to find out more, and judging from his experiences as a private eye, he likely feels a certain sway to help people, so he goes along with Christina's cover. He'll stick it out, even if it does result in a bumpy ride.

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Things I have picked up from watching this scene. Christina (Cloris Leachman) is isolated and desperate. It's not everyday you run down a busy highway in nothing but an overcoat. Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is compationate and almost the white knight coming in to save the damsel in distress. 

 

For a side note always loved the reverse roll of the credits in this movie, just something different.

 

Wow, I had the complete opposite reaction. Sure, he picks her up, but first he yells at her for almost wrecking his car. Then he teases her about almost getting raped, and threatens to kill her. He only decides to help her once she makes sexual advances towards him. He's the complete opposite of a compassionate white knight.

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Wow, I had the complete opposite reaction. Sure, he picks her up, but first he yells at her for almost wrecking his car. Then he teases her about almost getting raped, and threatens to kill her. He only decides to help her once she makes sexual advances towards him. He's the complete opposite of a compassionate white knight.

 

 

Gotta be trolling. I've still got to see this whole flick, but look at the scene!  Even before the dialogue starts, he clearly tries to start the car, looks annoyed as if he wants to just drive off, and his head moves very stiffly and jerks around when it does move. If he's compassionate, then outside of her sexual allure, he's compassionate for outside the law women who it's suggested are crazy and potentially damaged. There's a mirroring suggestion there too as he comes off as standoffish and mentions that'd he'd just as soon "throw her off a cliff" until he overhears about a woman who fits her description, and then is all up for hand holding and not just kicking her out of his car but going along for a ride. 

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I had come across this scene a few weeks ago i watched it...got my interest. did not think anything of it but wondering if this would be in the summer of darkness? well it did. last night i started to watch the movie and that first scene just draws you in fast!

 

why is she running?

someone chasing her?

 

 

After the guy picks her up the camera is from both of their POVs and the credits start, you can still here her catch her breath during the main title song.  When the credits start they go down, and if you pay attention to the names they go up meaning first name on the bottom and last name on top.  Also this is not the first time we see credits like this a little film from 1977 did this with Star Wars.

 

We find out she escaped from a mental hospital, again why? she brings mystery to the story! she did not seem crazy.  

 

i only have an hour left on the film. great film!

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In my only reading of a Mike Hammer's book he slept with all the girls in the story, including his secretary, only one woman escaped this fate, she was ugly and she was a communist. It fits in what we see in the clip and also in the rest of the movie, the cold war hysteria and a guy who doesn't spend much time trying to be a gentleman, who treats his car as his girlfriend and his girlfriends as  a "dame" or worse. His ill humor with the situation indicates he is only interested in things he can make a profit of. The  jazz music places him as cool guy, who enjoy nice things on life, not a grumpy old fellow with existentialist doubts about the meaning of life. 

 

My big question is why he saves Christina from the police.when he finds she is a fugitive from a mental institution. My wild guess? He doesn't like the police or rules, he likes outcasts and outsiders, being one himself and living among those who break the rules all the time. But maybe the best explanation comes from Walking Dead. When she holds his hand, she could be implying she is willing to go to bed with him. And he would gladly do it, why not? After all, she is not ugly and doesn't look like a communist. 

 

Professor Edwards talked about symbolism of the staircase, the higher you are on it, more powerful you are. I can see  something similar on the sports car, symbolizing power and virility. 

 

Christina's fast breaking, the way the tittles are presented, the car suddenly braking. All that adds to a sense of anxiety pervading movies and American society of that time, afraid of the Cold War, atomic bombs and communist invasion. 

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Christina is terribly afraid and dependent on  Hammer in this situation. She continues to be terrified, even after he picks her up. He is cool and collected – in control – at least, so it seems. We have seen many noir films where the female lead appears to be helpless and ends by being anything but helpless.

 

Major themes are terror, unpredictability, a deceptive woman, and a smooth-talking man – and it’s not clear whether the man or the woman is driving the action. And a new type of sound track, at least at the beginning that illustrates the terror.

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Instead of being the "desperate flip side" to the Maltese Falcon, this opening scene actually reminded me a bit of that film.  Mike is nearly run off the road by a woman who is clearly afraid of something.  By his casual attitude and way he speaks to her, he doesn't seem overly compassionate, but, this reminds me of Sam Spade saying that when a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.  Mike seems resigned to the fact that when a woman is running down the side of the road, so desperate to escape something that she's not even wearing shoes, he's supposed to do something about it.  He's not sure if he's made a mistake or not, he's not sure if he might still throw this woman off a cliff instead of helping her, but for the moment, they're in this together and he's going to let things play out.

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Very interesting, creative, different way to begin a movie...got my attention!

 

Another film I've never seen, wow!

 

There were scenes which seemed as if they had cut and pasted, perhaps that was the idea, to communicate dysfunction, disjointedness.

 

I found parts hard to believe, that they were able to catch Mike and Christina just after they had met.

 

The old black and white makes these movies so much more somber, deadly, dark, menacing, depressing, hopeless!

 

Good movie.

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The lyrics of the song playing in the car capture what is happening in the clip:

The night is mighty chilly

And conversation seems pretty silly

I feel so mean and rot

I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

 

The room is dark and gloomy

You don’t know what you’re doing to me

The web has got me caught

I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

 

All night I walk the city

Watching the people go by

I try to sing a little ditty

But all that comes out is a sigh

 

The street looks very frightening

The rain begins and then comes lightning

It seems love’s gone to pot

I’d rather have the blues than what I’ve got

????????

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I’ve seen Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) a number of times and each time the movie mini freaks me out.  This movie is out there in ways the 1950’s aren’t the 1940’s and it all starts with Cloris Leachman’s desperate run down the highway in search of a savior.

 

From her bare feet (could we call them naked feet?) to her panicked, erratic breathing, I totally believe Leachman’s character is in the kind of trouble where three guys take turns using hinged tools on your body for days on end.  And then there’s Ralph Meeker’s **** off reaction which initially couldn’t be more selfish given Leachman’s obvious distraught condition, only to see Meeker’s annoyance melt away at the police barricade when he decides to play husband.  A lot of characterization takes place in a short amount of time, but it’s characterization that not only gives you something about who they are but also raises further questions that make you want to find out more.  This movie is built around an element of mystery.

 

Kiss Me Deadly uses a number of noir stylistic elements.  The opening incorporates exaggerated sound design to heighten the fear that compels Leachman to attempt to stop a car even if it kills her.  The sound of her trying to catch her breath continues once she’s seated in the car with an added near laugh, near crying sob that is mixed with hearing Nat King Cole singing, “Rather Have The Blues” on the radio.  Plus those crazy titles.  It’s an odd; sometimes disturbing mélange that straightaway creates an unsettling tone.

 

Along with the sound design, the cinematography also deploys several techniques common to film noir.  The scene opens with a tracking shot looking back on Leachman’s feet running.  The cinematography is night for night, with the backgrounds rolling into complete crushed blackness on the road.  To my eye, it looks like a single key light more or less placed ninety degrees camera right, working as a kick light.  When she essentially runs from a full shot into a medium shot/close-up (no tracking here, the camera is fixed) there’s a nice low angle framing of her upper torso and head against the pitch-black sky.  As she turns her head, the right side of her face becomes black and disappears into the sky.  Nice.

 

I like when film openings set the tone and genre of a film.  In this opening scene there’s a play between static and dynamic storytelling discussed in week three.  We know what kind of film we’re watching but it already feels different.

 

There’s also an element to the film that reminds me of Rudolph Mate’s D.O.A. (1950).  Perhaps the radioactive threats in both movies?

 

-Mark

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There are a lot of noir themes at work here. We have the dark lighting and shadows as well as the use of jazz music to frame the atmosphere.

 

The film begins with a lead character in trouble for reasons we don't fully understand which causes the rest of the movie to evolve.

 

We get an a somewhat unsuspecting participant with Mike Hammer as well.

 

The way the film sets up its opening narrative, the darkness, the peril and the damsel in distress are all noir motifs.

 

Right off the bat we learn that Leachman is in some sort of trouble. We don't get dialogue for 2 and a half minutes, only a primal panting and deep breathing that is just as sexual as it is terrifying. From the start we see that there is a darkness to her. Hammer is not keen to get involved initially. He's pretty crummy and doesn't like being disrupted. he appears to be tough and frank and direct.

 

It's an important moment for noir in how the credit are done. This keeps the viewer off balance. The pacing, flow and development of the story is also an important contribution because it gets to the point pretty quickly. It's a disorienting exercise that never really lets up and that is one of its strengths. 

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