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(aka "Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly" )

 

directed by Robert Aldrich
USA 1955

 

Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Robert Aldrich's hard-edged, stylistically innovative adaptation of the Mickey Spillane novel, features what may be the most violent and unsympathetic private eye in the history of cinema. As Mike Hammer, Ralph Meeker is like a bull in a china shop, lurching haphazardly from one deadly encounter to the next, often employing the same brutal tactics of the criminals he's pursuing. But as the plot of Kiss Me Deadly unfolds, Hammer goes from being just a cheap hood who specializes in divorce cases to serving as an unwitting accomplice in the retrieval of a mysterious box that holds "the great whatsit."

***

In this atomic adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s novel, directed by Robert Aldrich, the good manners of the 1950s are blown to smithereens. Ralph Meeker stars as snarling private dick Mike Hammer, whose decision one dark, lonely night to pick up a hitchhiking woman sends him down some terrifying byways. Brazen and bleak, Kiss Me Deadly is a film noir masterwork as well as an essential piece of cold war paranoia, and it features as nervy an ending as has ever been seen in American cinema.

***

Starting with the opening scene in the film, our "hero" gets in over his head when he picks up a hysterical woman (Cloris Leachman) on the highway who has escaped from a mental institution. The ensuing events lead him to a subversive group led by Dr. Soberin (Albert Dekker) who appear to be trafficking in stolen atomic material. It all builds to an apocalyptic finish at an isolated beach house where the contents of the black box are finally revealed.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: 18 May 1955 (USA)

Reviews                                                        More Reviews                                                DVD Reviews

Comparison:

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the DVD Review!

1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

 

 

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection, spine #568 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Carlotta
Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:45:56 1:46:12.783 1:46:07.194
Video

1.64:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.78 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,489,435,585 bytes

Feature: 31,341,520,896 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,636,819,245 bytes

Feature: 30,830,487,552 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.81 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray

Bitrate Carlotta Blu-ray

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (English) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 819 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 819 kbps /
24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 1058 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1058 kbps /
24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles French, Spanish, None English, None French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.64:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
• Alternative Ending (1:03)

DVD Release Date: June 19th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,489,435,585 bytes

Feature: 31,341,520,896 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
• New video tribute from director Alex Cox (6:38)
• Excerpts from The Long Haul of A. I. Bezzerides, a 2005 documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter (9:14)
• Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, a 1998 documentary about the life and work of the author (39:38)
• Video pieces on the film’s locations (7:06)
• Controversial altered ending (:22)
• Theatrical trailer (2:13)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman and a 1955 reprint by director Robert Aldrich

Blu-ray Release Date: June 21st, 2011
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 15

Release Information:
Studio: Carlotta

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,636,819,245 bytes

Feature: 30,830,487,552 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.81 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Disintegration (22:45 - Allerton Films)

• The Many Faces of Mike Hammer (27:58 in English / French subtitles - Fiction Factory)

• Controversial Ending (:39)

• Trailer (2:11)

Blu-ray Release Date: November 20th, 2013
Black Blu-ray Case inside cardboard sleeve

Chapters 21

 

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Carlotta Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (December 2013): Another strong transfer from Carlotta - technically right up there with the Criterion and I can see no significant difference between the image quality of the Blu-rays. The French 1080P release may be minutely brighter - but that is all.

Ditto for the audio - a DTS-HD Master in original mono - I'd be hard-pressed to identify differences from the Criterion Blu-ray. They have included an optional French DUB and the French subtitles are optional via the 'subtitle' button on your remote.

Carlotta may not have all the extras of the Criterion but they do offer some valuable video pieces - Disintegration is 22:45 long interview from Allerton Films (In French - no subtitles) with a scholar discussing Kiss Me Deadly. The Many Faces of Mike Hammer runs almost 1/2 hour and is in English from Robert Fischer's 'Fiction Factory'. Cult director Larry Cohen discusses Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY (1955) and his own adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel, I, THE JURY (1982). With great passion and verve, he also comments on Mike Hammer’s many other screen and television incarnations and even brings out his collection of Mike Hammer comic books. We get the brief Controversial Ending piece also found on the Criterion and a trailer.

This is a wonderful, French-friendly (and English-friendly) Blu-ray release for Region 'B' Blu-ray. Super a/v presentation and brilliant value. Recommedned!

***

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - May 11': Certainly there is no need to compare to the non-anamorphic, boosted SD transfer that has more artefacts and a cropped frame. The Criterion 1080P image shows some occasionally impressive detail, sublime contrast and thick grain that mark it as a very film-like presentation. It is certainly not glossy and the image, while never looking pristine, brings back a wonderfully textured look to Kiss Me Deadly. Aside from a few scratches under the surface there is no damage to speak of and aside from some minor fluctuation the gritty presentation is consistent and should be very pleasing to Noir fans.

Criterion are faithful to the flat mono audio with a linear PCM track at 1152 kbps. Any scattered audio is more to be blamed on the production or source than the transfer. It is imperfect but never hinders the presentation with  drop-outs or notable hiss. There are optional subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is, as always from Criterion, coded for region 'A'.

Criterion supply a great audio commentary by two of the best - film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini recorded in Los Angeles in March 2011. They cover information about all the film's participants as well as the characters. It is, as expected, very thorough and extremely entertaining for devotees of Kiss Me Deadly. There is a 6.5 minute new video tribute from director Alex Cox who discusses the backwards title and his deeply thought perceptions on the film and its meanings. There are about 10-minutes of excerpts from The Long Haul of A. I. Bezzerides, a 2007 documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter where Spillane, Bezzerides and writers Barry Gifford and George Pelecanos. This helps perpetuate the dark aura of the film's ideals. In 1998 Mickey Spillane agreed to participate in a documentary about his life and career, directed by mystery writer and filmmaker Max Allan Collins (atta boy Max! - author of the book The Road to Perdition). Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane's debuted at a noir festival in Courmayeur, Italy. This new condensed cut was prepared by Collins for this release and runs for about 40-minutes documenting the life and work of the author. Also included is a 7-minute video piece, narrated by writer-actor Don Bajema, where writer and Los Angeles film buff Jim Dawson discusses some of the locations in Kiss Me Deadly. For almost 3 decades more than a minute of footage was missing from the end of the film. How this happened remains a mystery but it resulted in a very different fate for the characters. Neither director Robert Aldrich nor anyone associated with the film's production or distribution intended for these crucial shots to be excised, and they were finally restored in 1997. It is presented under the title "Controversial altered ending" and runs only, truncated at only 22 seconds. There is a theatrical trailer and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman and a 1955 reprint by director Robert Aldrich.

This is like giving a tall, cool lemonade to a man dying of thirst. Noir fans have always placed this enigmatic gem very high in their top listings of the dark cinema stalwarts - for years and years. It's a film that carries its own unapologetic style and fans love to discuss its merits and messages. With the fabulous commentary and intriguing extras this is one for remembering at the end of the year Poll for best Blu-ray. The appeal i... undeniable. Absolutely recommended!

 - Gary Tooze

***

ON THE DVD: Robert Aldrich's noir classic Kiss Me Deadly was released on DVD in 2001, back when MGM thought that films less than 1.85:1 aspect ratio (in this film's case, it's around 1.64:1) doesn't require anamorphic enhancement. The film is widescreen, in original theatrical ratio, but unfortunately presented on this disc letterboxed format. The print itself in a nice shape, with very light scratches and marks being visible from time to time, but it's never severe. The last minutes suffer the most, but being restored from a different print (SEE HERE) it was anticipated.

An alternative ending that most people saw in US theaters is available as an extra. A trailer is also available; this important film noir definitely deserves better special edition with anamorphic transfer and some nice extras. The MGM disc is currently out of print, but can be obtained new for a little over $10 at Amazon. The film is highly lauded, but the recommendation of this DVD release comes with some reservations. Let's hope for a new edition soon!

  - Gregory Meshman

 


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1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC TOP

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1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM -  Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Box Cover

 

 

 

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection, spine #568 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Carlotta
Region 'B' - Blu-ray


 



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