RARA-AVIS: Re: Torture Porn

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 07 Jul 2007


Re your question below:

"Jim, I've probably asked you this before, but I can't remember if you answered, and if so, how (it's shaping up to be that kind of day, as evidenced by my Sallis lapse): Do you feel Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly is as much of an abomination as Long Goodbye?"

Not as MUCH of an abomination. Aldrich was clearly setting out to make an anti-Spillane picture in much the same way that Altman was setting out to make an anti-Chandler picture.

But, in spite of himself, Aldrich's picture is, inadvertently perhaps, closer to the spirit of Spillane than Altman's is to the spirit of Chandler.

Meeker, for example, is a much more forceful presence as Hammer than Gould is as Marlowe. Ultimately, despite his director's subversive intentions, he captures aspects of Spillane's character
(determination, ruthlessness, loyalty to friends, suspicion of bureaucracy, self-confidence, competence in combat, etc.) so well that even Spillane, who initially hated the picture, reportedly said in later years that Meeker was the best screen Hammer.

KISS ME DEADLY captures other characters from Spillane's books with greater faithfulness, too. Paul Stewart's Mafia kingpin, Carl Evello, is a far more faithful rendition of the book's character than Mark Rydell's is of the film's counterpart to mobster Mendy Menendez, Marty Augustine. Similarly, Wes Addy's turn as Hammer's cop buddy, Pat (now named Murphy instead of Chambers and, IIRC, a lieutenant rather than a captain) is a far more faithful depiction than is Steve Coit's turn as Detective Farmer, the film's analog for Bernie Ohls.

Aspects of KISS ME DEADLY bug the hell out of me as a Spillane fan, but, despite setting it in LA instead of NYC, despite making Hammer a divorce specialist, despite depicting Hammer more as personally pissed off than obsessed with justice, the film, notwithstanding Aldrich's clear intentions, is far more ejoyable for Spillane fans than Altman's TLG is for Chandler fans precisely BECAUSE Aldrich, though he put his best efforts to the task, is less successful at trashing Spillane than Altman is at trashing Chandler.


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