Vital Signs

Deadly" "Kiss Me

My title is not the title the film is known by, but it is, with familiar strangeness, the title that we see, as the credits crawl “the wrong way” (in this film, the right way), imitating the unwinding of the road as seen from a speeding vehicle.  In other words, the plane of the screen has become the plane of the highway, and the radio broadcast becomes the soundtrack of the film, as intoned by Nat “King” Cole.  And the words and the music of that song, like the cinematographic aspect, have to be experienced to be apprehended in all their shocking fusion and confusion.

Kiss Me Deadly (produced and directed by Robert Aldrich, 1955) has enjoyed a cult reputation for over five decades, and as the years have gone by, our sense of the film has gone from strength to strength.  It is quite possibly the greatest of all films noir, even one of the finest films ever made, of any kind.  The bases of its appeal are many, and its aspects of repellence, not a few.  But having been “done” as a Criterion DVD, it is literally an example of world cinema—a thriller as art film, a politically suggestive statement grounded in the repudiation of the detective myth.  Kiss Me Deadly is, above all, an ironic and even grotesque rendition of contemporary awareness that has transcended its moment.  It still speaks to us of a world of...

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