Saturday, March 1, 2014

Film Pairing — Phillip Marlowe At His Best, Mike Hammer At His Worst

If you read through my blog, you’ll notice that while I’d like it to help market my books, I’ve not avoided subjects that might alienate a portion of the population. The only exception is that I won’t write about new books that I don’t like. I don’t feel I have the credentials to judge, especially in cases where such judgments might affect sales and therefore livelihoods.

Kiss Me Deadly
Old movies are different. And I’m sure I’m on my way to offend a great number of noir lovers.  I think Kiss Me Deadly is a horrible movie.  While Mike Hammer is not my favorite kind of private eye, the fault lies not with Mickey Spillane or the legendary character he created.  The director apparently decided to turn a P.I. story into science fiction and redefine Hammer.  No longer merely a tough guy, Hammer (Ralph Meeker) becomes a sociopath.  I wanted someone to kill him early on.

I’m in the minority here.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it 97 Percent.  The only thing I would give it is that if you want to take a trip back to the U.S.A.’s paranoid fifties, this is worth unearthing from the time capsule. One other plus: Cloris Leachman makes her first big-screen appearance in one of the film’s most interesting scenes.
Murder My Sweet

Admittedly, Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is a more personally appealing P.I.  More wit, more humor. Over the years the character has been blessed with portrayals by Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, James Montgomery, and James Garner. He’s also been played by Dick Powell, an actor whose films and TV shows I tried to avoid from my post adolescence to the onset of my senility. Cry Danger (1951) changed my mind.  Fortunately so or I might not have watched Murder My Sweet (aka, Farewell My Lovely), in which he plays a wonderfully complex Marlowe, at once vulnerable, dogged, tough and funny.

Both films are set in LA.  Kiss Me Deadly shows you the city in 1955.  Murder My Sweet, which co-stars Claire Trevor, was released in 1944.  For those who wish to imbibe, the night’s cinema, no matter how you pour it, suggests some sort of whiskey — on the rocks if you’re a dame or a dandy.


Linda Robinson said...

I agree. Kiss Me Deadly is not a good movie and Meeker's portrayal of Marlowe was just plain scary.

Ronald Tierney said...

Thanks, Linda. Glad to hear from you.