At the end of the Film Noir era, a punchy, paranoid film came to our screens.  Most know its premise. A lonely road, a woman, Christine (Cloris Leachman, the still with us, firecracker) stands waving anyone down. Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) a private eye stops for her. Then they are pushed off the road and both are worked over. He comes to in a hospital. A staged crash didn’t kill him. Only made him wonder. Why did they try to kill him?

Then the real work starts. Hammer is Spillane’s zippy, tough, clued up private dick. He goes on a quest, that takes him deep into the world of secrets and nuclear lies. Robert Aldrich makes us work through out the film. Images reflected. Observed and transposed.  Secrets are laid out and then covered over by lies and misinformation. The famous opening, as Alex Cox states in his introduction ‘Runs backward to displace us and are footing’. That is KISS ME DEADLY power. Never a firm foot, nor a true word to be heard and less to be said. I cant remember a film so cleverly unbalanced and also so wilfully unsettling. Film Noir had ventured into the 50’s without much hope. It was superseded by the atom and sci fi films of the age of space and the bomb. However the hang over of this age, has left us with a masterpiece. A masterpiece of paranoia and fear. Truths and lies are dangerous. So is the atomic bomb.


I was impressed by the new HD version of the film. By impressed, I really mean happy enough. The DVD version is very good and this lifts it a smite. A tiny, teeny smite of an amount it is true but then hey. Still good depth of blacks. Nice shades. It is enough to add value to the already spent money from your pocket.


Where this disc (and most Criterion) really do show the money is in the extras.  The best extra is Alain Silver and James Ursini commentary. It covers almost all of the genre and the directors work. It also explains Spillane and this is worth every moment. The Long Haul of A. I. Bezzerides  makes you want to see the whole feature but it focuses on the film and that is fair. Mickey Spillane documentary never fails to add more to the work of Spillane (adding the commentary) but covers stuff already handled better elsewhere.  The truncated ending is interesting as an editorial piece but I loved the A look at the film’s locations. Its good to see the places as they were and are…

  • New high-definition restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
  • New video tribute from director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Walker)
  • Excerpts from The Long Haul of A. I. Bezzerides, a 2005 documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter
  • Excerpts from Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, a 1998 documentary on the author whose book inspired the film
  • A look at the film’s locations
  • Altered ending
  • Theatrical trailer


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