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Catching The Cold War: The Culture of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted November 28, 2011 to photo album "Catching The Cold War: The Culture of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

The Cold War paranoia that permeates TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY was a focus of a series of fascinating books and films created in post-war Europe and America.

Taking the Temperature of Cold War Culture
The Moral Quagmire: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
Potential Fallout: FAIL SAFE
Paranoia Pulp: KISS ME DEADLY
Sex and the Soviet: From Russia with Love
Peace in a Pod: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Cold War Campaign: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
At Long Last: POINT OF ORDER
Cold War On The Rocks: TOPAZ
Cold War Meltdown: THE FOURTH PROTOCOL
The Cold War Capsized: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
Paranoia Pulp: KISS ME DEADLY

Paranoia Pulp: KISS ME DEADLY

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer was a tough anti-communist, but in Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film adaptation of KISS ME DEADLY, the detective became a cynical gumshoe motivated less by love of country and more by cash and a hardboiled code of personal ethics. The film is a crazy blend of B-movie, noir detective drama and science fiction, and it taps into a Cold War anxiety about Russian spies in the homeland and nuclear war. Ralph Meeker plays Hammer, who, after picking up a distressed hitchhiker one night, winds up with his car in a ditch and the woman, dead, by his side. The crash sends Hammer on an odyssey infused with all the paranoia of the time, propelling him towards a sexy Russian spy and the film’s MacGuffin, changed by screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides from the novel’s $2 million in cash to weapons-grade nuclear material. The film has one of the bleakest endings in all of noir, with the nuclear material exploding, killing the woman, Hammer, and, most likely, all of us. Writes J. Hoberman of the film, “Everyone is under surveillance, everything is a secret; the protagonist, who is described as returning from the grave, is a walking corpse. Jagged and aggressive, KISS ME DEADLY is one paranoid movie — with all that implies. Fear of a nuclear holocaust fuses with fear of a femme fatale. Hammer pursues and is pursued by a shadowy cabal—a mysterious “They,” as they’re called in the film’s key exchange, “the nameless ones who kill people for the Great Whatsit.”