The seventh film in the Film Noir Marathon, Kiss Me Deadly was made in 1955 and directed by Robert Aldrich.
Okay, I know that Kiss Me Deadly is a very respected film noir, which many believe to be one of the finest of its kind. A lot of people, film critics, and film noir buffs really enjoy this movie. So it came as a surprise to me how bad it was. My expectations weren't even that high. Certainly not as high as they were for Strangers on a Train or Out of the Past. Let's start with the beginning, where the problems first present themselves.
We have a girl named Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) running down the freeway, in nothing but a trench coat, desperately trying to hitch a ride. Eventually, she stands in the middle of the lane forcing the car of Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) off the road to avoid hitting her. After an initial annoyance, he tells her to get in. The credits roll across the screen as they drive. Throughout all of this, Christina is giving out these sharp, frantic gasps that are, to be truthful, annoying and sound completely ridiculous. Soon, mysterious men force the car off the road, take both Mike and Christina to a house of some kind where Christina is killed, and proceed to shove her body back into the car along Mike (who's unconscious) and push the vehicle off a hill. Mike lives and after being released from the hospital starts out on a search to find Christina's killers.
All this takes place in the first 15 minutes of the film. An opening that could be referred to as "fast paced" or "thrilling" ... that is, if it worked. The problem is that the audience has no real connection to Christina, there just doesn't seem to be anything too special about her. When she's killed, there's no sense of loss.
After this beginning, the rest of the film focuses on Mike Hammer as he tries to, along with the help of his secretary/lover Velda (Maxine Cooper), find out who killed Christina and why. The film fails to adequately explain why Mike feels compelled to do this. There's a small scene where we're told he's doing it because he's sick of small time divorce cases (oh, by the way, Mike is a private detective, not that it really matters) and wants to go after something big. However, he seems to live a fine life with a nice apartment, fancy sports car, and pretty girlfriend, making that reasoning a little hard to believe.