Every now and again you find a movie that reminds you why you love film. You encounter that rare jewel that rips you back to when you were nine-years-old and slams you down onto the couch in the TV room where your mom just put in some movie you’d never heard of called Raiders of the Lost Arc.
Kiss Me Deadly is an amazing film and it reduced me to a quivering heap of nine-year-old.
I’m reticent to actually discuss the specifics of the story because this experience was so similar to the ‘Luke, I am your father’ moment that cannot bring myself to ruin it for anyone. And, honestly, talking about the fact that there is a significant event towards the end of Kiss Me Deadly may even be ruining it. I was caught so off guard and so unawares that I experienced the shock of a twist ending completely and utterly, which is something that doesn’t really happen all that often in the information age we live in.
Kiss Me Deadly is based off of a Mickey Spillane novel entitled Kiss Me, Deadly. The novel is just one installment in Spillane’s famous Mick Hammer mystery series. The film, however, is a stand-alone venture. It chronicles the exploits of hardnosed and corrupt private eye Mike Hammer as he attempt to uncover the reasons behind the disappearance of a girl he picked up hitchhiking.
Sure, it sounds like pretty standard fair for Film Noir. And it is. It goes through the paces of what’s expected of it. It places a bit more emphasis on the fact that Hammer’s a corrupt piece of shit, but it’s still pretty much your formulaic film noir movie. There’s a McGuffin that Hammer is desperately perusing, there’s a murdered woman, and there’s the rampant racially incentive stereotypes. The film is fun, it’s enjoyable if you like film noir stuff but it’s not earthshattering.
There’s lots of great sexual innuendo that seems way ahead of its time. Clorice Leechaman also appears along with Jack Elam. The performances across the board are endearing and tend to soften the blow of some of the more harsher elements of the story. Hammer pimps his girlfriend out for information, at one point. Yes, he literally sells his lady’s body for information. It’s hardcore. Yet, you somehow keep rooting for Hammer. There’s something about Ralph Seeker’s stoic, unnuanced performance that actually helps you connect with Hammer. If Meeker had tried to show remorse or tenderness in some scenes it might have destroyed the whole film. Hammer is an unstoppable unfeeling freight train. Nothing and nobody can stop him.
And in many ways that’s how the film feels for the first three fourths. It feels like an enjoyably formulaic freight train speeding towards the inevitable conclusion of Private Eye gets the girls, makes the money, stops the Nazis, and rides off into the sunset.
BUT IT DOESN’T END THAT WAY.
I would be a despicable waste of a human being if I ruined the surprise for you. And even in my writing this I may be unfairly stacking the deck against the film. But it truly is a wonder to behold. Kiss Me Deadly deserves to be seen. Go, seek it out. You won’t regret it.