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Kiss Me Deadly(1955)
In this atomic adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s novel, directed by Robert Aldrich, the good manners of the 1950s are blown to smithereens. Ralph Meeker stars as snarling private dick Mike Hammer, whose decision one dark, lonely night to pick up a hitchhiking woman sends him down some terrifying byways. Brazen and bleak, Kiss Me Deadly is a film noir masterpiece as well as an essential piece of cold war paranoia, and it features as nervy an ending as has ever been seen in American cinema.
For more about Kiss Me Deadly and the Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray release, see Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Robert Aldrich (I)
Writers: Mickey Spillane, A.I. Bezzerides
Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Marian Carr
» See full cast & crew
Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 18, 2011
Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; new audio commentary featuring film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini; altered ending; short documentary about Bunker Hill; making of featurette with screenwriter A. I. Bezzerides, Mickey Spillane, and writers Barry Gifford and George Pelecanos; documentary film about the life and work of Mickey Spillane; and more. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker, Paths of Glory, The Dirty Dozen) picks up a hysterical hitchhiker, Christina (Cloris Leachman, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story), wearing nothing but a trenchcoat, who begs him to remember her if anything bad should happen to her. Shortly after, she is killed and he is beaten unconscious.
When Hammer wakes up, someone gives him a brand new car, with a carefully planted bomb, and then one of his best friends, Nick (Nick Dennis, The Iron Mistress, Top of the World), dies. Meanwhile, the FBI launches an investigation, and Mike's secretary, Velda (Maxine Cooper, Autumn Leaves), disappears. Seriously depressed and infuriated, Hammer vows to get Christina's killer and punish him.
Robert Aldrich's legendary Kiss Me Deadly is in a league of its own. It is dark and violent but also incredibly bizarre, reaching surprisingly far film that must have confused a lot of people when it was first screened in 1955. It has most of the key ingredients classic noir films are known for but it uses them in a way that is truly original.
The film has little sympathy for those who may have difficult time understanding everything that takes place in it. Names fly off and locations change at an incredible pace. Details are important but there are absolutely no hints where to look for the crucial ones.
The film also oozes nihilism. The main protagonist is smooth and good looking but shockingly mean and violent - so much so that it is impossible to like him, or his friends, or even their friends. He hurts old people and treats women as if they are milk cartons. Unsurprisingly, when he gets kicked around, it just feels right.
On top of all this, the plot also veers off in a direction that changes the entire complexion of the film – to a point where it is actually difficult to regard it as pure noir. In other words, instead of linking and binding together its scattered pieces, the finale throws everything in the air. And with a bang.
Kiss Me Deadly is, without a shadow of a doubt, a product of its time. It is a paranoid film with paranoid characters, existing in a world within a world. Like the politicians from the Cold War era, they are driven by questionable ideals, impossible to trust. Unsurprisingly, Aldrich isn't kind to any of them.
This rather strange attitude, however, is what makes the film so fascinating to behold – it is never politically correct and always unpredictable. It is the type of anarchic film that demands respect for everything it shows – and gets it because it does everything with an impeccable style.
The cast here is exceptional. Ralph Meeker is terrific as the tough private eye, looking good but never enough to trust him. Lily Carver, playing a mysterious femme fatale, and Albert Dekker, playing a creepy doctor with a plan, also impress. The elegant Maxine Cooper does not disappoint as the naive secretary-mistress either.
Cinematographer Ernest Laszlo's lensing is legendary. The opening sequence, for instance, which sets the tone for the entire film, and then the shocking finale, which was copied by Steven Spielberg in Raiders of the Lost Ark, are absolutely brilliant.
Note: In 1999, Kiss Me Deadly won the National Film Registry Award and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Lee Kline, Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Throughout the years, Kiss Me Deadly was released on LD, VHS, and SDVD by various distributors. With Criterion's Blu-ray release, in my opinion, the quest for perfection ends. I believe that this would be the definitive release of this landmark American film for years to come.
Fine object detail and clarity are dramatically improved. In fact, so much so that there are portions of the film that I could not recognize. The soft, often blurry scenes from the old non-anamorphic MGM R1 SDVD release of the film now look crisp and vibrant. The many contrast fluctuations have also been addressed, while various color enhancements have been performed to give the film a fresher look. Furthermore, I did not see any signs of excessive sharpening. Aliasing and banding do no plague the high-definition transfer either. Some minor noise corrections have been applied, but they actually strengthen the overall very pleasing organic look. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues (not even random frame transition issues). All in all, this a solid release of a film that has never looked this good before. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The English LPCM 1.0 track opens up the film quite well, though additional work on some of the mild background hiss could have been done. Still, the dialog is crisp, clean and easy to follow. I noticed that overall stability has been improved as well.
Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Kiss Me Deadly Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ignored when first released on this side of the Atlantic but praised by the critics (and future nouvelle vague directors) at the legendary Cahiers du cinema, Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly is an American masterpiece, a film that has stood the test of time. Criterion's Blu-ray release of Kiss Me Deadly is of exceptionally high-quality, and it will most likely be the definitive release of the film for years to come. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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