The last month or so, I've been obsessed with Kiss Me Deadly, an adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel that might be the rawest crime movie this side of The Killing. I wrote about it. Now you read about it.
I’m a crime fiction addict—honestly and unrepentantly—but I’ve found that some of the classics of the genre fail to get me high. Raymond Chandler called Philip Marlowe “neither tarnished nor afraid . . . the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” That’s nice enough for Phil, but I always found it disappointing. What’s the point of a tough-talking PI if his hardboiled shell conceals a center of sickly sweet Cadbury cream?
Film adaptations of detective classics tend to amplify their hero’s moral side, making his snark into little more than bluster. No matter how hard Sam Spade might crack wise, we know that Bogie would never really do the wrong thing. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is the exception to this—his Marlowe is truly laid back right until he becomes a killer—but it was made in the ’70s. For years, I have hungered for a film adaptation from pulp’s golden age that did justice to the fact that, to be a private detective, you have to be a motherfucker.