In connection with the Electric Sheep Film Club at the Prince Charles Cinema every second Wednesday of the month, we run a film writing competition in which film students and aspiring film writers are invited to write a 200-word review of the film on show that month. The best review is picked by a film professional, and respected film writer Jason Wood was the judge of our November competition for Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The prize for the best review is publication on the Electric Sheep website. We are pleased to announce that the winner is Rob Freeman. Jason Wood said: ‘Overall, I thought the standard was very high, with a good combination of fluid writing and film knowledge. The one thing that shocked me, however, is that not one of the pieces thought to mention the film’s director. I think Robert Aldrich is essential to the world view of the film. My choice for the winner is Rob Freeman. I thought that the writing was extremely taut (like the film itself) and considered. The piece captures the essence of the film whilst also, within a very limited word count, placing it in the context of both its immediate environment (the B-Movie, the pulp novel and the film noir) and its wider German Expressionist heritage.’
Here is Rob Freeman’s review:
Borne out of the B-movie era, Kiss Me Deadly ditches as many noir tropes as it holds onto. From reverse opening credits to an apocalyptic finale, at times the only thing that feels as if it has been gleaned from its pulp source is the sneer on the face of its protagonist as he hurls a gangster down a set of stairs, or slams a drawer on the fingers of a cagey mortician. P.I. Mike Hammer awakes strapped to a metal bed, listening to the screams of Christina Bailey as she is tortured to death with a pair of pliers. From that moment, Hammer becomes a man resurrecting the dead, reconstructing Christina’s past from clues and fragments. It is a fever that all detectives suffer from and never overcome, and the film is bleak, thick with the haunting presence of Christina Bailey repeating her refrain: ‘remember me’. All angles and uplights, Kiss Me Deadly uses its German Expressionist heritage to great effect, as the camera jumps and cuts from the depths to the heights of the set, and chiaroscuro shadows shroud its characters in darkness, as they move from the nether-regions of LA, to a flame-drenched, atomic finale in Hell.
Jason Wood is the author of a number of books on cinema, including 100 Road Movies and 100 American Independent Films.