Kiss Me Deadly

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Story, Mickey Spillane, Screenplay, A I Bezzerides
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman

Ralph Meeker plays Mike Hammer, a tough Los Angeles private eye who is almost as brutal and corrupt as the crooks he chases. Mike, and his assistant/secretary/lover, Velda(Maxine Cooper), usually work on “penny-ante divorce cases”.

One evening on a lonely country road, Hammer gives a ride to Christina (Cloris Leachman), an attractive hitchhiker wearing nothing but a trench coat. She has escaped from a nearby mental institution. Thugs waylay them and force his car to crash. Hammer regains consciousness in some unknown location where he hears Christina screaming and being tortured to death. Hammer next awakens in a hospital with Velda by his bedside. He decides to pursue the case, both for vengeance and because, “She (Christina) must be connected with something big” behind it all.

The twisting plot takes Hammer to the apartment of Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers), a sexy, waif-like blond who is posing as Christina’s ex-room mate. Lily tells Hammer she has gone into hiding and asks Hammer to protect her. It turns out that she is after a mysterious box that, she believes, has contents worth a fortune.

“The great whatsit”, as Velda calls it, at the center of Hammer’s quest is a small, mysterious valise that is hot to the touch and contains a dangerous, shining substance. It comes to represent the 1950s Cold War fear and nuclear paranoia about the atomic bomb that permeated American culture.

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words “The End” come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film’s original negative, removing over a minute’s worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words “The End” over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the apocalypse. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored. The DVD release has the correct original ending, and offers the now-discredited truncated ending as an extra. The movie is described as “the definitive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, science-fiction film noir of all time – at the close of the classic noir period.”[2]

The Longest Yard

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Albert S Ruddy
  • Writers: Albert S Ruddy, Tracy Keenan Wynn
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Burt Reynolds, And Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Harry Caesar, John Steadman, Charles Tyner, Mike Henry, Jim Nicholson, And Bernadette Peters, as The Warden s Secretary, With Pervis Atkins, Tony Cacciotti, Anitra Ford, Michael Fox, Joe Kapp, Richard Kiel, Pepper Martin, Mort Marshall, Ray Nitschke

The protagonist is Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Burt Reynolds), former star pro football quarterback living with his wealthy girlfriend (Anitra Ford) in Palm Beach, Florida. After a fight with her, he gets drunk and “steals” her expensive Citroen SM automobile. He is surprised when a fleet of police cars follow him. Briefly evading them, he exits the vehicle and sends it over an open drawbridge into a canal; he is caught and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Crewe has difficulty getting along with the guards as well as with his fellow inmates. The convicts despise him because he was dismissed from the National Football League for point shaving. As his only friend, an inmate nicknamed Caretaker (James Hampton) put it, “Most of these boys have nothin’, never had anything to start with. But you, you had it all. You could have robbed banks, sold dope or stole your grandma’s pension checks and none of us would have minded. But shaving points off of a football game, man, that’s un-American!” (a similar line in the 2005 remake is spoken by the same character, this time played by Chris Rock). Moreover, the sadistic, power-hungry warden Rudolph Hazen (Eddie Albert), a football fanatic who manages a semi-pro team made up of the prison’s guards (most of whom are big and fast enough to play professional football), wants Crewe to help coach the team. Responding to pressure from the guard’s leader and coach, Captain Wilhelm Knauer (Ed Lauter), Crewe refuses. He is harassed by the guards and given backbreaking work as punishment. Following a scuffle with the guards, Crewe’s sentence is increased to 2–5 years.

As the prisoners and the crowd celebrate, Warden Hazen is furious. Crewe walks across the field in what appears to be an attempt to mingle with the crowd and escape. Hazen sees this and orders Knauer to shoot Crewe. Knauer calls out to Crewe several times as Hazen barks for him to shoot. At the last moment, Crewe picks up the game ball and walks back towards Hazen. Crewe then hands the ball to Hazen, telling him, “Stick this in your trophy case.”

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Lukas Heller, Based on the novel by Henry Farrell
  • Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono

A lengthy prologue set in 1917 introduces six-year-old Baby Jane Hudson, a highly successful vaudeville performer, and her older sister Blanche, who remains in her shadow. Jane is extremely popular with the audiences and doted on by her father. Blanche resents this but, out of consideration for their mother, keeps her feelings buried.

As the two become adults, in a second prologue set in 1935, Jane fades into obscurity while Blanche becomes a renowned film actress. One night after a party, one of the sisters walks forward to open the gate to the driveway of the Hudson mansion. We see the other sister put her foot on the gas and and crash the car into the gate.

As the film reaches present day, we see that Blanche is paralyzed after the accident, and Jane is apparently the responsible party. The two have become recluses in their decaying mansion, where Jane ‘cares’ for Blanche. When Jane learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and move in with their black maid Elvira, and perhaps place her in a convalescent home, Jane holds her prisoner and increases her sadistic verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. She even kills Blanche’s pet parakeet and serves it to her sister on her dinner plate. She later performs the same gruesome prank with a dead rat.

Jane realizes Blanche could have been her friend, and goes off to a snack stand to buy ice cream cones for the two of them. Two policeman at the food stand recognize Jane and run after her. Soon, when the policemen catch Jane, a crowd gathers around her. The now completely deranged Jane begins to entertain them with a song-and-dance routine as they watch, giving her the attention she had so desperately craved. The film ends with a long shot of the beach. The police spot the limp body of Blanche and run over to her, leaving Jane happily dancing within a circle of onlookers.

The Dirty Dozen

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Kenneth Hyman
  • Writers: Novel, E M Nathanson, Screenplay, Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller
  • Genres: Action, Drama, War
  • Actors: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Robert Webber

In England, in the spring of 1944, Allied forces are preparing for the D-Day invasion. Among them are Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin), an OSS officer; his commander, Regular Army Major General Worden (Ernest Borgnine), and his former commander Colonel Everett Dasher Breed (Robert Ryan). Early in the film the personalities of the three men are shown to clash and the character of the individualistic Reisman and the domineering Breed is established.

Major Reisman is assigned an unusual and top-secret pre-invasion mission: take twelve American soldiers convicted of capital offenses, either serving sentences of hard labor or awaiting execution, and whip them into a unit capable of carrying out the task. The plan, as described, is to infiltrate a château near Rennes, in Brittany, used as a retreat for senior Wehrmacht officers, on the eve of the invasion. Without having complete intelligence as to the identity of the guests, it was felt that the elimination of officers in the German high command or senior staff could cripple or confuse the German military’s ability to respond at the time of crisis. It is quickly established that both Reisman and the generals with whom he frequently clashes consider the mission to be a suicidal long shot.

The film concludes in a hospital room where Sgt Bowren on crutches is shown visiting Reisman and Wladislaw who are bedridden with broken bones and other serious wounds received in the battle. They are visited by the general officers, their former tormentors who sent them on this suicide mission who now have nothing but smiles and praise for the survivors. Wladislaw is heard to mutter “Oh boy… killing generals could get to be a habit with me”.