Welcome to a new dynamically-enabled paradigm shift in delivering content-rich online experiences to generate more sticky eyeballs. Yep our host, that great raconteur, humanitarian and patron of the arts, Tony the T, has generously allowed me to do a little Grog Flogging (film blogging) here from time to time - basically about odd little films I think are unjustly overlooked… or bloody overrated. And since blogland has the attention span of a dog just let out of the car after a long drive, I'll try and keep it short and mainly about flicks with lots of sex and violence.
I'll start gently with a well-known cult classic (ie: bloody hard to see and some confusion over the director's intended ending) that’s now finally on DVD - half a century after it was made: "Kiss Me Deadly".
1955. B&W, natch! Script: Albert Isaac Bezzerides. Direction: Robert Aldrich. Cinematography: Ernest Lazlo. Score: Frank De Vol, also feat. Nat King Cole, Franz Schubert and strange hissing noises.
So what's the fuss about? Well, it's the atomic-powered, crazed mutha of a movie that stomped classic film noir into the gutter. Before it, there was there was "The Big Sleep", "The Third Man", "Pickup On South Street", "The Lady from Shanghai", "The Killers" (the 1949 version) and "Criss Cross". But after they spawned their sneering, swaggering bastard child, "Kiss Me Deadly", there was nowhere really left to go but "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" and eventually "Night Of The Living Dead". It was the genre's Gotterdammerung.
Deadly kept all the ingredients of the original Mickey Spillane book. Mysterious damsels in distress, urbanely evil masterminds, nympho gangster molls, glinting drug-laden hypodermics, stone-faced henchmen, cynical wise-cracking cops, hard-boiled but soft-curved blondes with snub-nose .38s and a merry sidekick who dies hard. And bourbon. Lots of bourbon. But then Deadly got really wild.
For starters, our main boy, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is a completely amoral, sleazy ratbag. He slaps innocuous folks around at the drop of a fedora, his private dick operation is basically a sexual blackmail racket that would make Jake Gitties blanch, he treats his luscious jazz ballet dancing secretary, Velda Wakeman (Maxine Cooper) like shit and he keeps stealing other people's smokes (the whole bloody packet too). However Mike seems be to be raking in the mazuma, even though he's a thieving bastard with the Lucky Strikes. He drives a succession of classic 50s roadsters even shapelier than his women and his "What kind of man reads Playboy?" pad has one of the first answering machines ever seen on screen – all bakelite console and big tape spools.
But what really makes Deadly leap off the screen and slap you around is the utterly bravura filmmaking that delivers a very post-modern (ie: no one gives a shit if it makes sense or not) story. The lighting and camera angles often push noir conventions till they scream for mercy, while even the bit players seem to have stepped out of a stag film parody of the original Twilight Zone. It opens with a metaphorical bang and closes with a literal one. And in between it’s grainy, grimy 50s LA gothic at 120 mph. There's a brainsnapping title sequence (reverse credits, rolling backwards as well, over a car windshield and accompanied by sobbing and panting overlaid on a moody jazzy ballad) followed by an artfully just off-screen torture scene that gives you the willies even now. And that's just in the first few minutes.
And a savage, smirking but increasingly baffled Mike Hammer stalks through this nihilistic, shadow-sodden, off-kilter world, pulling judo moves here, smashing fingers and Caruso records there and puzzling over a clue hidden in a Christina Rossetti love sonnet, but always blind to what's really going until the light's so bright, it burns everything up.
No wonder Lynch, Scorsese, Tarantino, Ellroy, Frank Sin City Miller, and so many others, deftly lifted moves, motifs and riffs from this flick just like Mike Hammer would your cigarettes. See it or take one in the kisser, pal.
GrogFlog's verdict: "Va-Va-Voom! Pretty POW!" 8 out of 10.
Coming soon: 70s sci-fi porn, the young Oliver Reed, arthouse coprophagia, telepathic dogs and wrinkled retainers.