The University of Iowa

“Kiss Me Deadly” screening Feb.10 in “Film After Noir” Series

February 4th, 2011

The “Film After Noir,” series (the Spring 2011 Proseminar in Cinema and Culture) continues this Thursday, Feb. 10, with a screening of Kiss Me Deadly (1955, 106 min.), starting at 7 p.m. in 101 BCSB.

Kiss Me Deadly is director Robert Aldrich’s and screenplay writer’s A. I. Bezzeride’s take on Mickey Spillane’s novel of the same title. Private detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picks up hitchhiker Christina Bailey on a dark highway in the middle of the night. Soon after, gangsters overtake them, killing Bailey before sending her and an unconscious Hammer over a cliff in Hammer’s pristine white XK120 Jaguar convertible. When Hammer wakes up in a hospital three days later, he senses that Christina must have been involved in something serious. With the help of his assistant, Velda (Maxine Cooper), he sets out to solve the mystery of a box — dubbed “the great whatzit” — whose contents are supposedly worth a fortune.

At the time of its release, Kiss Me Deadly was slow to arouse serious attention, with the notable exceptions of Cahiers du Cinéma critics Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette. Forty years later, the U.S. National Film Registry selected it for preservation. Kiss Me Deadly is a fast-paced period piece whose depiction of a corrupt and dangerous Los Angeles locates it along a trajectory of L.A. noirs between This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942), The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974) and L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997). Be sure to see Des Moines native Cloris Leachman as the doomed hitchhiker and the famously cross-eyed Jack Elam as mobster flunkie Charlie Max.

This film series focuses on films produced between 1950 and 2000 that display or revise elements of classic noir. All screenings are free and open to the public.

Steven Ungar, UI professor of French and Comparative Literature, will lead post-screening discussions.

The series is sponsored by UI International Programs, the Institute for Cinema and Culture and the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For more information, contact Ungar at or 319-335-0330.