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Not only is director Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY ($20) a marvelous screen adaptation of the Mickey Spillane novel, it a classic film noir that has become even more powerful, now that the studio has unearthed the movie’s original ending, which was too graphic for audiences back in 1955. Ralph Meeker stars as detective Mike Hammer, who is accidentally drawn into the strangest case of his career. While driving on a darkened stretch of road, Hammer picks up a desperate, hitchhiking Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman), who leaps out in front of his car to get his attention. It’s obvious from the moment that Christina gets in the car, that she is in some kind of trouble and on the run. Unfortunately, the parties chasing Christina catch up with her and Hammer. After torturing her to death, she and an unconscious Hammer are placed back into his car and run off an embankment. Somehow, Hammer manages to survive his "accident" and goes in search whoever killed Christina and tried to killed him. Hammer’s investigation runs him afoul of both government authorities and the criminal element, leaving him on his own to solve one of the most lethal mysteries any private detective has ever faced.

Director Aldrich effectively brings to life the gritty, violent world of Mike Hammer, as well maintaining a continuous sense of tension throughout the film. Additionally, KISS ME DEADLY is a pretty fast paced movie that benefits from tight editing, especially during the more action-oriented moments. Much of the dialogue has a tough, pulp fiction quality, which the actors manage to bring off without sounding awkward or ridiculous. The cast of KISS ME DEADLY also includes Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Maxine Cooper, Strother Martin, Nick Dennis, Gaby Rodgers, Nick Dennis and Jack Elam.

MGM Home Entertainment has made the restored version of KISS ME DEADLY in a 1.66:1 wide screen presentation that has NOT been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Despite not being enhanced, the black and white transfer is very nice. The image on the DVD is relatively clean, sharp and well defined. Blacks are solid and deep, plus the picture provides very good contrast and very stable whites. Shadow detail is quite good for a film of this vintage and the image produces a very good sense of depth. The film element used for the transfer is very clean, displaying very few blemishes. There is a fair amount of film grain present throughout the course of the movie, but it adds to the grittiness of the film’s atmosphere. Digital compression artifacts remain out of sight during the film’s entire running time.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very clean sounding, reproducing without any hiss or audible distortion. Dialogue is clean and completely intelligible, plus the actors’ voices maintain a pronounced sense of character. Despite a lack of directionality, the sound effects are pretty convincing. The film’s jazzy score by Frank De Vol sounds pretty good and reproduces with decent monaural fidelity. French and Spanish subtitles are encoded onto the DVD. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well a theatrical trailer and the film’s cut down theatrical ending.

KISS ME DEADLY is classic film noir that belongs in the collections of all genre fans and film buffs. Despite the lack of the 16:9 enhancement, MGM’s presentation is pretty satisfying.


Kiss Me Deadly


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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