Re: RARA-AVIS: A Whiff of Sulphur -- Eureka!

From: Patrick King (
Date: 07 Dec 2007

--- kevinburtonsmith > Nope, not at all. By 1955, when KISS ME DEADLY came
> out, the conventions of noir had
> more or less already been codified. I can't think of
> any "essential aspects of the style" that
> KISS ME DEADLY invented.
> Care to give us an example? Any example?
****************************************************** The fat scrolling credits at the beginning used effectively later by Star Wars. The repeating stair angels which may have been borrowed from Hitchcock but certainly not used as heavily as in KISS ME DEADLY. Here they're used like the venitian blinds and fan shadows were in Curtiz' CASABLANCA. They're also very reminiscent of Escher's art work. Watching the villian through his shoes was used by Hitchcock again in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, but here it's used to put the viewer in the position of Hammer in a drugged and beaten state and it continues right up until the pool party where we begin to see their faces. KISS ME DEADLY is full of fine noir camera angles and very effective use of black & white. Velda is also depicted in a powerful way. Hammer is almost pimping her. There's no whore/angel thing here as there is with Jane Greer in OUT OF THE PAST. Velda is a broad in broad strokes. The scene of her dance pactice is a very expressive touch of how she sees herself. That we can see the sweat on her is really effective.

> And personally, I'm not even sure KISS ME DEADLY
> qualifies as essential noir, or even a
> particularly effective example of the genre. To me,
> it seems dated and clumsy in a way
> much older -- and better -- film noirs don't. I
> always think of it more as a Cold War
> paranoia film more than a crime film.
**************************************************** Well, it is clumsy and dated just as Spillane's work is clumsy and dated. It is not a faithful adaptation of Spillane's quintessential novel, but in some ways it's much better. The beginning with Cloris Leachman barefoote and naked but for a trechcoat is not only faithful to the novel, but we meet her first in headlights and we feel for her Christina much more than we do for the desperately slutty Berga Torn in the novel. That little cameo is a tour de force for Leachman. She says 'remember me,' which Torn never said, and we do. We understand why Hammer is so determined to find out what happened to her.

Sure, OUT OF THE PAST, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, CASABLANCA, THE MALTESE FALCON are better movies than KISS ME DEADLY, still not many modern noir films come close to capturing KISS ME DEADLY's essential persepctive even though their stories may be better and their casts more accomplished.

Patrick King

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