Top 5 “Kiss” Movies

After delving into the uplifting subjects of Hitler and depressing animation, I decided to go a a little lighter with this list. Here are my top 5 favorite movies that feature the word “Kiss” in the title. As you read this imagine a medley of the following songs playing: “Kiss Me on the Bus” by The Replacements, “Kiss” by Prince, “Looking for a Kiss” by the New York Dolls, “Kiss Me Deadly” by Generation X, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Specimen, “The Kiss” by the Cure, “Sealed with a Kiss” by Brian Hyland, “Kiss Kiss Kiss” by Yoko Ono, “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” by the Shangri-Las, “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes, “Prelude to a Kiss” by Duke Ellington, “It’s in His Kiss” by Betty Everett, “Knock Me a Kiss” by Louis Jordan and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” by Marie Dietrich. I should also add that after compiling this list I noticed that the 5 titles that I discuss below just happen to be 5 of my favorite film noirs as well. A few honorable mentions that just missed the kiss list are: the comedic neo noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – Shane Black, Nicholas Cage feature, featuring live cockroach eating Vampire’s Kiss (1985) – Robert Bierman, the whimsical Kiss Me Kate (1953) – George Sydney, the Dean Martin starer Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) – Billy Wilder, the ridiculous Cary Grant/Jane Mansfield shoreleave movie Kiss Them for Me (1957) – Stanley Donen, the Bela Lugosi thriller The Death Kiss (1932) – Edwin L. Marin, Best Foreign Film nominated Stolen Kisses (1968) – François Truffaut, the Oscar award winning Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) – Hector Babenco, the Robert Wagner thriller A Kiss Before Dying (1956) – Gerd Oswald, the later James Cagney mob film Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) – Gordon Douglas and the creepy Elvis movie Kissin’ Cousins (1964) – Gene Nelson.

5. Killer’s Kiss (1955) – Stanley Kubrick

At the ripe age of 26, Stanley Kubrick made his 2nd feature film for $40,000 that he raised himself from handouts provided by family and friends. Acting as the director, cinematographer and editor, Killer’s Kiss is one of the most visual striking film noir films made and hints at the claustrophobic elements that he would later utilize in the Shining. The story revolves around a boxer who is past his prime and falls for the girlfriend of a local gangster. Kubrick’s camera and skill as a editor are what really stand out here. There is a sequence of cuts between the boxer losing a fight and the girl fighting off the advances of her slime-ball boyfriend that has near pitch perfect timing to it. The on foot chase scene on at the end is up there with M as being one of the most gripping and suspenseful on film. While being a little too short in time, clocking in at only 67 minutes, Killer’s Kiss is still a great introduction to Kubrick and later film noir.

4. The Naked Kiss (1964) – Samuel Fuller

It is hard to tell you too much about the Naked Kiss without giving away its most shocking and memorable moments. The youngest of the films on this list, it was made in 1964 by the great Samuel Fuller. The stunning Constance Towers (possibly the best non-porn star porn star name) plays a woman who is trying to escape her past as a prostitute by making a career change as a nurse working with disabled children. It is a film about the struggle for redemption and despite the moral ambiguities of one’s life, doing what you know is right. Through out the film, our heroine fights the good fight and puts on a kind face while also not being afraid to put the wrong people in the right place. Like many B movies of the time, what at first may appear on the surface to be a simple shock film, turns out to have many socially relevant messages underneath. This film also makes use of some great quotes such as Goethe’s “Nothing is more terrible than active ignorance”, Lord Byron’s “All who would win joy, must share it; happiness was born a twin.” and probably the best line in the film, Baudelaire’s “A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle.” The first scene in this film could easily be on my top 5 opening scenes. Plus I am pretty sure Tarantino stole Alabama’s “come clean” speech in True Romance from this film.

3. Kiss of Death (1947) – Henry Hathaway

Kiss of Death will always have a big place in my heart because it launched the career of my favorite actor, Richard Widmark. While not the featured star of the film, Widmark’s Academy nominated portrayal of the psychotic gangster Tommy Udo is what is best remembered. Imagine a mix between the Joker and Alex from A Clockwork Orange, but extremely well dressed. Victor Mature plays the down and out ex-con Nick Bianco, who gets busted in a robbery and ends up in jail. While there he finds out that his wife has committed suicide after having an affair with one of his former comrades. He cuts a deal which lets him out of jail, but only if he gathers information that will put others in his place. He befriends Udo and gets the dirt on him but fails to put him behind bars and soon finds himself fearing for his own life. The most famous scene in the movie has Widmark sadistically tormenting and killing a snitches mother who he suspects is lying to him. As brutal as this film is, the original cut featured scenes of Bianco’s wife being raped and committing suicide, and had a different, even more depressing ending. It was also remade in 1958 as a western called The Fiend Who Walked the West starring the infamous movie producer Robert Evans. You can hear Evans’ thoughts on his performance in the documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture. It was also remade with the same name in 1995 with Nicholas Cage and David Caruso. I have not gathered the strength to try and sit through that. Next time you are really mad at someone, just tell them “I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.”

2. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) – Norman Foster

I had the pleasure of seeing a print of this at Noir City, the San Francisco annual film noir festival, a couple years back. Unfortunately, it has never been released on VHS or DVD. Much like the previous film, this movie has a place in my heart for introducing me to my favorite actress, the breathtaking (and amazingly still alive) Joan Fontaine. Fontaine plays a nurse who falls for a rugged and violent ex-prisoner of war (Burt Lancaster at his best) who she can not decide if she can trust. Lancaster kills a man in a bar fight and pretty much takes Fontaine prisoner in her own home as he tries to wait it out, but hey, he sure is dreamy. He lets her go eventually and makes a break for it after enough time has past. Even though she is startled by the whole encounter, she is drawn to him. She takes him at his word that it was an accident, but at the story starts to unfold she becomes more suspicious of his integrity. This film follows a trend in noirs of films that feature duel leading roles between a male and female that are centered around the mistrust over the truth of a murder. In a Lonely Place (1950), Moontide (1950) and Suspicion (1941) (also starring Fontaine in a role that would win her an Oscar) are just a few examples of noirs that revolve around women that are in turmoil over the truth of their lovers’ crimes. If the title of this criminally unseen movie wasn’t good enough, then behold it’s tag line, A HUNTED MAN…A LOVE-HAUNTED WOMAN!

1. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – Robert Aldrich

Kiss Me Deadly is the 2nd film to feature Mickey Spillane’s pulp fiction hero Mike Hammer, the first being I, Jury released two years earlier. Hammer is a tough as nails LA detective who walks the line between lawman and criminal in order to solve his crimes. The Hammer book series was an extremely popular book series in the 1950’s. In this adventure, Hammer is played by Ralph Meeker. It starts off with Hammer picking up a naked-except-for-a-trenchcoat-just-escaped-from-a-mental-institution-hitchhiker (played by a young Cloris Leachman in her first on screen appearance) and quickly finds himself ambushed by a band of thugs. He later wakes up in a hospital with the vague memory of the hitchhiker’s death, and like any self respecting P.I., is soon hell bent on revenge. What follows is a one of a kind sci-fi-noir that reeks of Cold War paranoia and atomic age mania. Along the way we get a fantastic tour of 1950’s Los Angeles. Like many noirs of the day, this too fell victim to the studio’s knife and the originally, apocalyptic ending has only recently been restored. In case you’ve ever wondered where Tarantino got the idea for the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction, look no further.

Special Feature:

And now for something completely different!

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2 Responses to “Top 5 “Kiss” Movies”

  1. Where’s Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss you homophobe!?!?

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