Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Dr. Rich Edwards

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

Recommended Posts

Fear and questions--The viewer is confused

Two principal themes of this opening scene are sexuality and fear.  Sexuality is portrayed in Christina who is wearing a trench coat with bare feet; she appears to be naked under that coat.  We can see almost the full length of her legs as she runs down the road.  Once Christina is "picked up" by Mike Hammer, he asks her if she always goes around without any clothes on.  This question could nearly be a pick-up line except Hammer asks it in all sincerity.  We also sense fear by Christina's gasping and crying as she is running as well as when she is driving in Hammer's car.  At first we wonder if she has been raped by an aggressive man which is strengthened by Mike's comment about a man thinking No is a three letter word.

We learn at the first that Mike Hammer is a man of style with his fancy sports car as well as a man of principles.  He values life shown by him turning his car to the shoulder in order to avoid hitting Christina.  He cares about Christina's state of being by asking her questions and therefore, we know he is compassionate.  Finally, we realize that Mike has known what it is like to want to flee confining circumstances when he pretends that Christina is his wife allowing her to lean on his shoulder as he talks to the police looking for the young woman in the trench coat who escaped the mental hospital.

We really know very little about Christina other than she is scared and attempting to get away from some dangerous situation.  We do not hear her talk, so we do not even know if she can talk.  Christina's circumstances are all circumstantial--does she talk? can she talk?  is she the woman who the police are looking for?  Is she in touch with reality or delusional?  We really can only guess at Christina.

This opening scene of Kiss Me Deadly is important to film noir for its portrayal of deprivation, fear, and suspicion.  The backward roll of the credit makes the viewer wonder at the logic of this film's universe.  The credit with Christina's gasping and crying creates a feeling of unease.  The viewer is put right in the middle of a confusing situation and given the desire to find out "what happened."

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with most of the posts found here.  Desperation, fear, hopelessness, and helplessness are the key ingredients encountered by the viewer as this movie opens.  Dark night, woman in distress, lonely road, lonely traveler.....an escapee from an asylum?  We get the backward credits, Nat King Cole and his blues, a nearly naked and frantic woman...and our hero Mike Hammer.  The suspense of the scene is a bit thwarted by Hammer's entrance because we know he will not be harmed by this woman or by the situation.  The remoteness of the lonely highway is strikingly similar to the many lonely and dark shadow filled scenes in remote parts of city life we have felt in many other films.  The randomness of it all is the fear factor for the viewer.

 

Many have mentioned Cloris Leachman and I believe she fits well into this scene and character.  The Last Picture Show is what I remember as I sense this character's desperation and loneliness.  Hammer is his usual calm, cool and collected self as he deflects the inquiries of the authority figures.  Where will all of this lead is the question of the moment?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

One major theme is the feeling of suspense a girl running down the road out of the darkness.

 

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

 

 While viewing the film clip we do not know anything about the character of Christina Bailey she just appears to be running away from someone or something as she runs down the road.  It is not until after they reach a check point that we learn that she may be an escaped patient.  The private eye gives the perception that he is a "hard boiled" private eye based upon the dialogue that takes place between the two characters.

 

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

 

 The opening scene is an important contribution to the development of film noir because the viewer is placed in a situation of wondering what Christina is running from and later why is she a patient.  Also, the element of film noir where there is an ominous environment of speculation and intrigue from the very beginning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene is very suspenseful. With her heavy breathing and gasping for air, the different camera angles and close ups show her running barefoot and wearing nothing but a trench coat down a dark highway. You expect to see someone creepy come out of the darkness after her. When she gets a ride and they are stopped at a police check point we see why she is running and it is a little unexpected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene is a must see viewing for anyone wanting to get into directing.  How do you create suspense?  Have someone running for their lives on a near-deserted road

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve posted earlier on Kiss Me Deadly but I have an additional thought regarding the opening scene.  Initially I thought that when Ralph Meeker’s character Mike Hammer, lied to the police at the police blockade, stating that Cloris Leachman was his wife, he did so because he softened and was now willing to help Leachman’s character Christina Bailey out of a jam.

 

While I still believe the above meaning does exist in this scene, I’m now starting to see the moment Meeker states that Leachman is his wife as the culmination of what began earlier on the highway with Leachman running barefoot down the pavement.  In essence the entire scene is about Leachman and more importantly, women and their role/place in society.

 

There’s a subtext to this scene that says a woman alone (single) is and will be in constant danger unless she does anything possible to find a husband.  Trying to go through life single is a death sentence.  If you have to put yourself in front of a speeding car to get his attention, do it.  Once a woman finds a husband, she can then relax in the safety of the passenger seat while her husband navigates what she believes will be their life together.

 

On the other hand, being single for a man equates to a life of excitement where men are free to indulge in the most satisfying material possessions (fast cars, guns and women).  Women want and need marriage while men reluctantly agree to it for reasons they never really understand.  This dichotomy between men and women runs throughout Kiss Me Deadly and, in terms of the entire picture, defines who Mike Hammer is and what roles men and women assume in 1950's America.

 

-Mark

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Kiss Me Deadly, the opening scene is very intense and anxiety ridden.  Some major themes/ideas introduced in the opening scene are:

Why is the running girl bare foot?

Why is the girl risking her life by hitching a ride with a stranger?

Why is the girl hitchimg a ride that is going back in the direction that she is running away from?

Why is the girl breathing so hard and for a long time in the car?

Is the girl the escaped girl from the mental asylum?

Why is the man pretending that the girl is his wife?

The use of the movie titles as another element to create tension in the scene.

Music is another element that emphasizes fear and anxiety in the scene.

 

Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) seems to trust the other character, private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker), even without knowing who he is. While Mike Hammer, Ralph Meeker, seems to want to help the girl by pretending she is his wife at the road block.

 

This opening scene shows that the Film Noir world is full of fear and anxiety. Strange things abound and get stranger as the story continues. Music and titles are used as elements to support the claustrophobic atmosphere.  The fear and anxiety of the characters keep us very interested and riveted to the screen to find out what happens next.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but the unusual style of the credits reminds me of opening of "Star Wars"--I wonder if George Lucas could have been inspired by it. Since the "Kiss Me Deadly" credits are read bottom to top, which is opposite of how we normally read, it adds to the disorienting opening and feelings of confusion.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everything in that opening is disorienting - the cold open of the terrified woman, the two lane road in the middle of nowhere (really - we have no idea where this is supposed to be, it could be *anywhere*), the cars both creating and coming out of the shadows, and finally the confrontation. She is so desperate to get away from wherever she's running from that she's willing to risk being killed by a speeding car...so how awful was whatever she recently experienced?

 

After he picks her up, the opening credits were extremely uncomfortable for almost two solid minutes:

  • "Star Wars" scroll of words except in order so they read upside down
  • Leachman is sobbing/panting/moaning the while time - she's no longer running so her breathing should slow but it doesn't. If you removed the music, it would almost sound sexual.
  • Meeker sits there for two minutes and doesn't ask her a single question? One would think her constant noisemaking would produce a question just to change the tempo. Of course, in reality, they waited for the credit roll to end.

Obviously by her slouch in the car seeing the roadblock (and peering at any car behind them) she's probably the woman talked about on the radio and the reason for the blockade. Maybe Meeker is in a position of superiority, but I think his reason for lying is pure intrigue...if he turns her over at the roadblock, he'll never know, and he probably figures he can handle whatever comes next. (Talk about your noir fatal flaws...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terrific opening scene. The sense of the woman being trapped is shown in the repeating shots where we see her bare, running feet, cutting to her upper body running toward the camera and stopping only when she is right in front of it, then showing each of the first two cars whizzing past. This is repeated three times, building to the climactic shot where she stands directly in front of Mike Hammer's oncoming car (ie, she doesn't care anymore), forcing him off the road.

It's like she's a trapped animal, repeating the same movements over and over. It puts me in mind of Lilian Gish's "locked in the closet" scene in Broken Blossoms.

Then, a touch of surrealism in the juxtaposition of the of the soothing Nat "King" Cole ballad on the radio against the woman's ragged gasping, panting and sobbing. It even sounds like there's some laughter, as if she's relieved she's finally on her way out of her trap - though she isn't.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening of "Kiss Me Deadly" exemplifies what I love about film noir..the immediacy of the situation, the clear and present danger, the risk taking, the characters..despite Leachman being (sigh) sexy and desperate, she interests me because she has clearly taken some bold action to change whatever situation she was running from...and you are wondering the whole time what that was. Hammer is typical in his jaded roughness, but clearly he is his own man, defying the authorities who are searching for the woman he has just picked up. The viewer is now wondering exactly what HIS motives are.

The music playing on the radio threw me off (disorienting)..soft , smooth vocal stylings of Nat King Cole crooning about love. There is no love in this film reality, at least not yet. Then those backwards credits! I cannot wait to watch this film in its entirety.

This film was created in 1959, about a ten year jump forward from the last film I watched..The Third Man. What a difference time makes..and I see the importance  of viewing the films chronologically, as has been suggested by Eddie M.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the reverse scroll on the opening credits is very different...I don't think I've ever seen them done quite like that...and that one line there where the guy comes up to bat for the girl 'my wife's been asleep' tells you a lot about the guy...despite his grumbling about having picked her up, he still was unwilling to let her get caught. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but the unusual style of the credits reminds me of opening of "Star Wars"--I wonder if George Lucas could have been inspired by it. Since the "Kiss Me Deadly" credits are read bottom to top, which is opposite of how we normally read, it adds to the disorienting opening and feelings of confusion.

 

Yeah, it took me a second to figure out how to read those credits.

 

And I really liked the sound of Cloris Leachman catching her breath in the car. I can't think of another movie that's used sound like that in quite that way. It was a lot of information about her, even though she wasn't saying anything. And it wasn't on a loop, either. She did all that breathy hysteria. 

 

And then how she cuddled up to Ralph Meeker begging him to help her get through the roadblock. Cloris Leachman doesn't get enough credit. Well, ok, she won an Oscar, so I guess she does. But she was great in these few minutes of this opening. I only watched this movie once years ago, so I'm looking forward to seeing it again Friday and paying attention to Cloris. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several poor choices by the film makers make it difficult to surrender oneself to the fantasy being presented here. We see a woman running down a dark lonely road, in two shots, and trying to flag down a passing car. We see this same exact set up repeated two more times. One feels that there is a technical problem and that we are watching a loop.


            The woman is illuminated by a 10k spotlight that appears without rhyme or reason…there is no subtlety in the visual presentation.


            Although she is running toward the camera she attempts to flag down a car going in the opposite direction. This looks silly.


            The sports car has been heavily sprayed with dulling spray to reduce its glare into the camera. It looks like a cheap special effect prop.


            The backward scrolling titles are rather pretentious and laughable.


            All of the above indicates that very little creative thinking has gone into what is obviously an extremely low budget B film.


            We do have the themes of escape, desperation, dislocation, possible insanity, police, manly man, and high living (the sports car.). But with the consistently poor production values I doubt that anyone would take this seriously.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17. KISS ME DEADLY: Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates.

A possible victim forces Hammer to either kill her or begrudgingly help her and not much caring which. Then we have an omniscient POV watching them as they roll under the credits. And how did that car in front of them at the checkpoint not have noticed her? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bursting onto the screen in the dead of night with high-pitched music as her only friend, a woman runs frantically along a desolate highway - barefoot and breathing like a scared jackrabbit.  The occasional relief of bright headlights, occasionally puncturing the ominous darkness, makes us wonder if this frightened innocent will find safety and solace in a chance pick-up. 


Luck’s riding with Christina Bailey, because her knight riding in his shining white Jaguar is none other than private detective Mike Hammer.  Of course, she doesn’t know this, but with the opening credits running backwards and the police blockade up ahead, he’s in for a bit of surprise himself. Hammer spits his words out, irritated by his close call - after all, he could’ve hit her or taken a spill, too.  But our hard-core tough guy is ready to come to her aid - even though she’s just escaped from a mental hospital.  What a fabulous opening hook!  Nat King Cole may be singing the blues, but the promise that comes with such a beginning is pretty intoxicating for any noir fan.


 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 The woman is illuminated by a 10k spotlight that appears without rhyme or reason…there is no subtlety in the visual presentation.

        

. But with the consistently poor production values I doubt that anyone would take this seriously.

 

 

You say that there's no creativity in this opening to the film, but the choices you complain about all feed into a pretty effective, in my opinion, way that the director has put you into this woman's experience. The volume of the breathing/gasping is more like how you hear yourself when you're upset than how you hear someone else; the brightness of the light is exaggerated, perhaps, but if you've ever been suddenly caught in a car's headlights--that's how it feels; similarly if you've ever repeatedly tried to flag down someone to help you only to be repeatedly ignored, you do feel like you're caught in a horrible loop. The stylistic choices are all in service of presenting this woman's ordeal subjectively, not objectively. The disorienting credits only further this effect.

 

As for taking it seriously, a lot of people find Kiss Me, Deadly to be one of the most iconic noirs. It's not my personal favorite (mostly because of its violence and general fatalism), but it does a lot of interesting things as it works both within the genre but at times pushing against it. One element/image from its story is so iconic that it is referenced in many movies and TV shows. I know that sometimes you can get off on the wrong foot with a movie--you get in that mindset where you start to notice all of its flaws and it just doesn't gel with you. But Kiss Me Deadly has a lot of things going for it (even if subtlety isn't one of them).

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

-- 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?

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

 

 

 I found it interesting that the opening credits played backwards.  Maybe its telling us that this is going to be something very different or a way of telling us to pay attention!

 

Just from the opening Christina seems guarded and honest with her answer to why she jumped in front to make him stop.  Mike seems very straight forward and comes off a little tough and sarcastic.

 

I think the opening credits set up this movie very well it gives us a lot very early!.  Drama, intrigue. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched Kiss Me Deadly last night.  Was anyone else disappointed with the big reveal of the murderer.  The only reaction I had was that, it was the guy from a movie earlier that day.  I admit, I might've dosed out during some of the movie but I didn't remember seeing him previously.  I didn't see why they had a big "Taddah!" moment.  Why didn't they just show him all the way through the movie?

 

(I wasn't sure where to post this so I also posted under the all 15 movies section)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You say that there's no creativity in this opening to the film, but the choices you complain about all feed into a pretty effective, in my opinion, way that the director has put you into this woman's experience. The volume of the breathing/gasping is more like how you hear yourself when you're upset than how you hear someone else; the brightness of the light is exaggerated, perhaps, but if you've ever been suddenly caught in a car's headlights--that's how it feels; similarly if you've ever repeatedly tried to flag down someone to help you only to be repeatedly ignored, you do feel like you're caught in a horrible loop. The stylistic choices are all in service of presenting this woman's ordeal subjectively, not objectively. The disorienting credits only further this effect.

 

As for taking it seriously, a lot of people find Kiss Me, Deadly to be one of the most iconic noirs. It's not my personal favorite (mostly because of its violence and general fatalism), but it does a lot of interesting things as it works both within the genre but at times pushing against it. One element/image from its story is so iconic that it is referenced in many movies and TV shows. I know that sometimes you can get off on the wrong foot with a movie--you get in that mindset where you start to notice all of its flaws and it just doesn't gel with you. But Kiss Me Deadly has a lot of things going for it (even if subtlety isn't one of them).

 

Kiss Me Deadly is one of my favorite noirs even if it's storyline sometimes seems as muddled as The Big Sleep.  There's something fresh and vibrant about it, both in look and tone.   It looks contemporary, modern, even now, sixty years old, in ways most noirs do not.   The modern set design and furniture, the automated answering machine, the sports cars, the open sexuality (despite the cardboard cut-out portrayals of all the women in the film) are unlike anything seen in noir before.    

 

I like the fact that  don't like Mike Hammer.   He's self absorbed, dangerously over-confident, callous and horribly misogynistic.   Christina pegs him, straight-off, when they're in the car.   I like the fact that I'm not even sure I'm rooting for him throughout the film.  

 

Unlike Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, who are often held in contempt by the police and authorities but whose sleuthing abilities usually give them the last laugh, Hammer is no Sherlock Holmes.  He haplessly stumbles through this case and is ultimately left in his apartment, a quizzical look on his face, vacuously muttering "I didn't know" when finally getting some idea of what he's stuck his nose in as the equally-hapless police try to clean up the mess he's made.      

 

I also like that Aldrich made a film about questions, not answers.   "What's in the box?"   Unlike Mills (Brad Pitt) in Se7en,  we never really find out in Kiss Me Deadly.   We never find out how any of the characters were involved in the Great Whatsit, where it came from, where was it going, what was the point of having it?   Was the Great Whatsit stolen for profit?  There's no mention of money.  Intrigue?  Politics?  Terrorism (no, that's something that would resonate today, not in the mid-Fifties)?  

 

Aldrich gives us only questions, and a lot of people fumbling around, blindly, in the dark...except Soberin, the most informed, i.e. 'sober' voice in the crowd, but even his role and motives are a complete blank.  

 

I think this is what sets Kiss Me Deadly apart from most noirs made before it.   There's no motive, no method, only inept madness from every character and quarter....a sort of deus ex machina minus god.               

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thought provoking post,VanHazard. It definitely helped me clarify some of my thoughts on parts of Kiss me Deadly.  I've put my comments in bold. 

 

Kiss Me Deadly is one of my favorite noirs even if it's storyline sometimes seems as muddled as The Big Sleep.  

 

Yes, definintely, perhaps even more muddled, I'd say, because I don't know if you can unwrap a lot of this movie's storyline. I'd point how that Kiss me Deadly is directed much differently. I don't think I'm alone in saying that the plot is clearly one of the least interesting things about Kiss Me Deadly, whereas the insane web of The Big Sleep it is a bit more a lure and more comprehensible, even if quite hard to follow, particularly on the first viewing.

 

There's something fresh and vibrant about it, both in look and tone.   It looks contemporary, modern, even now, sixty years old, in ways most noirs do not.   The modern set design and furniture, the automated answering machine, the sports cars, the open sexuality (despite the cardboard cut-out portrayals of all the women in the film) are unlike anything seen in noir before.    

 

Yep. You can't help but be impressed with the visual styles and flair. I think, perhaps, it's more modern because it's calling attention to, in some ways, how modern but improbable the lead character of Mike Hammer is. He's a guy that can just easily slap information seemingly out of anyone, make women pimp themselves out for information for him, be well-connected to numerous people within the underworld of the city or the club circuit, yet his personality comes off as brusque, and he's more a man of action than a man of clever thought.

 

I like the fact that  don't like Mike Hammer.   He's self absorbed, dangerously over-confident, callous and horribly misogynistic.   Christina pegs him, straight-off, when they're in the car.   I like the fact that I'm not even sure I'm rooting for him throughout the film.  

 

Yes, he's sorta a prototype James Bond. Ridiculously physically effective, uses his sexuality as a weapon to achieve the ends he wants, brutish and not really taken with high culture, but plenty familiar with gadgets and schemes. However, his misogyny and sadisism are more apparant. 

 

There are also a few instances in the film where it becomes clear he's a bit of sadist with inflicting pain--the attacker he slugs down the multiple flights of stars or  the mortician whose hand he smashes, for instance.

 

 

Unlike Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, who are often held in contempt by the police and authorities but whose sleuthing abilities usually give them the last laugh, Hammer is no Sherlock Holmes.  He haplessly stumbles through this case and is ultimately left in his apartment, a quizzical look on his face, vacuously muttering "I didn't know" when finally getting some idea of what he's stuck his nose in as the equally-hapless police try to clean up the mess he's made.      

 

Yes, in many ways, he's extremely ignorant about what's really going on or what he's after, but true to his name, he's going to hammer his way through the investigation until he's satisfied, even if his end goal is extremely vague, and all for the search of the "great what's-it" as Velda perceptively mocks him for.

 

He does have some clearly positive qualities, though, especially keeping 1955 in mind. For one, he gets along well with the african-american characters and people in the boxing gyms and clubs we see, and he comes off as someone fairly well-versed in those worlds and how to travel through them. And, though he is out for information, you get the sense that he does know these people personally and has some rapport and affinity with them and vice-versa.

 

I also like that Aldrich made a film about questions, not answers.   "What's in the box?"   Unlike Mills (Brad Pitt) in Se7en,  we never really find out in Kiss Me Deadly.   We never find out how any of the characters were involved in the Great Whatsit, where it came from, where was it going, what was the point of having it?   Was the Great Whatsit stolen for profit?  There's no mention of money.  Intrigue?  Politics?  Terrorism (no, that's something that would resonate today, not in the mid-Fifties)?  

 

I don't know how to feel about the ending. I'll re-watch it again. I do think though that if this movie really works and has some comprehensible things to say, it's more at an inter-textual level, within with the noir motiffs, genres,  and style, than it is at a textual level.

 

Aldrich gives us only questions, and a lot of people fumbling around, blindly, in the dark...except Soberin, the most informed, i.e. 'sober' voice in the crowd, but even he's role and motives are a complete blank.  

 

I think this is what sets Kiss Me Deadly apart from most noirs made before it.   There's no motive, no method, only inept madness from every character and quarter....a sort of deus ex machina minus god.               

 

It's hard to argue with that reading. I'd take a bit different of a spin on it by saying this: it's clear some of the characters are more well-informed that they let on, but what they know or exactly what they want is very opaque to us the audience. I forget his name but the government official who visits Hammer in his apartment and gets the key clearly knows a lot more than he is willing to share directly. But you do get the sense that even the characters in the know may still be somewhat in the dark about how everything fits together or how to describe what they know--for instance, what's inside the box is only ever really detailed in terms of mythological metaphors. This movie is clearly different than many of the noirs that came before in that it's willing to offer us an extremely stylish film with many recognizable noir tropes, though subverted tropes. However, it almost seems like the movie is intentionally extremely stylized in this way, but determined to keep viewers from figuring out what's really going on, unlike 40s era Noirs where the deceptions and mysteries were often only successfully perpetrated on some characters, rather than the audience too.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thought provoking post,VanHazard. It definitely helped me clarify some of my thoughts on parts of Kiss me Deadly.  I've put my comments in bold. 

 

I agree, it's not much of an ending.   I view it more as a non-ending, because what, really, has been established or resolved?   Soberin perhaps gives the best explanation to the question "what's in the box" by calling Gabrielle Pandora.   And yes, you're right in the mythological references invoked here, because Aldrich really is using the box as a metaphor...one that really does represent 'all the evils of this world'...whatever they happen to be...whatever the viewer imagines them to be.   

 

Soberin's entire character is framed as a sort of stilted Greek Chorus...oddly detached from the action even as he's made part of it. His diatribes during the interrogation of Christina, when he's injecting Hammer, and when he's talking to Gabrielle, are almost other-worldly.   He seems to know what's in the box, what the Great Whatsit's all about, but he cannot control it, nor can he stop the random, ignorant meddling greed (personified by Gabrielle) from killing him and unleashing all the evils of this world.  

 

Yes, Lt. Murphy (Wesley Addy), the "government official" you mentioned, seems to know something about 'what's in the box', but he comes across as a worse detective than Hammer, always a step behind in tracking down the Great Whatsit.  

 

Aldrich has depicted a world of incompetents blindly crashing around in the dark...causing grief and leaving carnage as they fumble about trying to weave their threads into something more substantial.   Maybe that's what's most 'modern' about Kiss Me Deadly. No one knows the 'big picture' because perhaps there isn't one.   Our frames of reference and accepted norms and conventions have been uprooted, broken down and become irrelevant.   There is no rhyme, no reason, no grand design or purpose to the world or anything in it except that we provide for ourselves as individuals, and what works for one won't necessarily work for another.   

 

Maybe THAT's what's in Aldrich's box...almost a Nietzschean challenge of looking into Medusa's eyes, staring into the abyss and filling it with your own meaning.   It's clearly more than Hammer can manage...but...would Spade or Marlowe fare any better?      

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I like the fact that  don't like Mike Hammer.   He's self absorbed, dangerously over-confident, callous and horribly misogynistic.   Christina pegs him, straight-off, when they're in the car.   I like the fact that I'm not even sure I'm rooting for him throughout the film.  

 

 

I first watched Kiss Me Deadly when I was 17 years old, taking a high school class all about film noir (the class was pretty awesome, by the by).

 

That was a while ago, and I don't even remember the big picture plot of the movie. It's the kind of movie that left certain emotional impressions, though. As you mention, Hammer is pretty easy to dislike. I remember being shocked, really shocked, that he's is unable to do anything about a woman being horribly tortured (and killed, right?). Noirs are often about men getting to a point of helplessness and powerlessness, but in Kiss Me Deadly, you kind of start in a hopeless, helpless place. And it only goes downhill from there.

 

There was a quote someone referenced on TV recently (Hannibal, maybe?) "The optimist believes that we are living in the best possible world. The pessimist fears that is the case." You can't help but get that sinking feeling, watching Hammer's casual misogyny and overall ineptitude, that this is the best thing standing between us and doom. To me, that's where the fatalism of the movie really comes into play. We'd like to think that in a life-or-death situation, you've got your best man on the job. Even if that someone is on the losing end of things, we want a knight (even with tarnished armor) like Marlowe who will stand up and fight the good fight. And if they lose, it's down to the corruption of the world around them, not the men themselves. I think that what Kiss Me Deadly points out is that the randomness of the universe means that it's not always the best man who goes into the fight. Maybe Christina would have been much better off if Hammer had driven around her and she'd managed to hail down the next car.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are several themes introduced in Kiss Me Deadly. The first is of a woman (Christina) who will do anything to avoid confinement, both literal and metaphorical. When we first see her she throws herself in the path of an oncoming car, risking her own life, in the hope that a car will stop. Then she offers her body to Mike in exchange for him not turning her over to the police. In this case, her confinement is literal, she has escaped from an asylum. The second theme is of a man who will do bad things for a woman. We see this first when Mike grudgingly gives Christina a ride, he opens the door for her though he clearly doesn't want to give her a ride. Later he makes a rape joke and states it is her fault and that he should throw her out. Finally, Mike does not turn Christina over to the police when he discovers she is an escapee. This is going to lead to more things leading to his own demise. Finally there is an implicit theme of sex in this film. Christina is naked except for a trench coat, Mike is driving a phallic shaped car, we see them in the darkened car and only hear Christina's gasping, and Christina offers herself sexually to Mike in exchange for keeping his mouth shut. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Daily Dose of Darkness #17: Deadly Kiss Me

(Opening Scene from Kiss Me Deadly)

 

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

It sounds to me that Christina is laughing and crying after she gets into the car with Mike Hammer. It’s a bit odd, but then she is running down a highway at night barefoot and desperate, and she is picked up by a stranger who might or might not help her. It’s only later that we learn a woman has escaped from an asylum upstate. But is Christina crazy? She seems only to be asking for help when she takes Mike Hammer’s hand. Right away we’re left wondering whether the world that Christina is running from or she herself is something to be feared.

—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 Bailey is desperate. She is running barefoot at night, alone, on a deserted road. The soundtrack features her heavy breathing, the slap of her feet as they hit the pavement, and jarring horn music. Mike Hammer’s dialogue reveals that he is cynical, hard, but just caring enough to help Christina (“You almost wrecked my car.” “Get in.” “I should have thrown you off that cliff back there. I might still do it.”) When we hear the song “Rather Have the Blues” on the car radio (introduced as “that fine new platter by Nat King Cole”), it’s almost as if Christina can allow herself to calm down, to feel safe with Mike Hammer, in spite of what he says to her. And Hammer protects Christina by telling the police officers at the roadblock that she is his wife.

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

The opening credits were fascinating because they show how this world is turned upside down. Film credits are usually positioned so that they are easy to read, but they weren’t in the opening scene from Kiss Me Deadly. I think the opening credits are supposed to add to the sensory overload. Audiences are forced from the opening moment of Kiss Me Deadly to acknowledge that nothing is as it should be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...