RARA-AVIS: KISS ME DEADLY (May the Force Be With You)

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 09 Dec 2007

I wrote:

> I can't think of
> > any "essential aspects of the style" that
> > KISS ME DEADLY invented.
> >
> > Care to give us an example? Any example?
> ******************************************************

And Patrick replied:

> The fat scrolling credits at the beginning used
> effectively later by Star Wars.

Ah, yes, that classic of film noir: 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.

Gee, no film noir had ever done that before.

> 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.

But if most of the elements you mention were used in other films previously, how could they have been invented in KISS ME DEADLY? And while the film does make use of many by-then established film noir elements, some quite effectively (and which you cite), you're over- praising the film, I think, for the wrong reasons.

What power it does weild lies more in its brashness and audacity of narrative; not for the most part its use of film noir style. Stair angels (sic)? Gimme a break. I think more people probably noticed the the end of the world at the conclusion of the film. Talk abut a sequel- killer.

> 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.

Hmmm... it does have a darkness about it, and certainly uses many of the common stylistic touches of the day that have since become associated almost exclusively with film noir, but I'm not sure CASABLANCA qualifies as noir in the sense most people here understand the term. I love the film myself, but I don't think of it as noir.

What does the Brain Trust say?

Kevin Burton Smith Thrilling Detective Web Site Fall 2007 Issue New fiction from Helms, Blackmoore, Alexander, Harwood and SPILLANE!

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