Representing the comedic equivalent of picking low-hanging fruit, Kill Me, Deadly doesn’t exactly blaze any satirical trails by spoofing film noir. Adapted from Bill Robens‘ stage play seen in Los Angeles in 2009 and subsequently produced in regional theaters, the film reproduces its genre’s aesthetic tropes with an uncanny precision that belies its budgetary limitations. Unfortunately, it lacks the genuine wit that would elevate it to the level of the best of countless cinematic parodies that have preceded it.
The proper period tone is immediately set with the vintage-style credits, sultry musical score and sumptuous black-and-white cinematography. The protagonist is tough private eye Charlie Nickels (Dean Lemont), who also provides an appropriately hard-boiled narration.
Set in 1947 Hollywood, the convoluted plot — that’s another aspect of film noir that this spoof gets right — involves Charlie being hired by dotty millionairess Lady Clairmont (Lesley-Anne Down) to retrieve her stolen “Bengal Diamond.” Needless to say, the private dick soon finds himself involved with a gallery of seedy characters, including femme fatale torch singer Mona Livingston (Kirsten Vangsness), Lady Clairmont’s sexy, flirtatious daughter Veronica (Raleigh Holmes) and even real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel (Joe Mantegna, amusingly hamming it up in bug-eyed fashion), who complains about how hard it is to get people to go to Las Vegas.
You could start a parlor game of spotting the voluminous references to old movies which veer from subtle to blatantly obvious (there’s even a Maltese Falcon that Charlie picks up and quizzically examines). But whether it’s the double entendre-laden dialogue that directly recalls Double Indemnity or the musical score recalling Taxi Driver, the nods are more slavishly imitative than actually funny.
Attempting to play it totally straight, Lemont turns in a dull performance as the beleaguered private eye, but the female performers fare better. Vangsness emulates such cinematic inspirations as Veronica Lake and Lana Turner with spot-on accuracy, and Lynne Odell is a hoot as Charlie’s loyal secretary who enthusiastically throws herself into the case and proves to be a far better detective than her boss.
Distributor: Indican Pictures
Production: Opiate of the Masses
Cast: Dean Lemont, Kirsten Vangsness, Lynn Odell, Lesley-Anne Down, Raleight Holmes, Nicholas S. Williams, Joe Mantegna
Director-editor: Darrett Sanders
Screenwriter: Bill Robens
Producers: Darrett Sanders, Dean Lemont, Bill Robens, Wendi West, Phinny Kiyomura, Kelsey Wedeen
Executive producers: Kirsten Vangness, John Money
Director of photography: Nicholas Trikonis
Production designer: Krystyna Loboda
Composer: Bill Newlin
Costume designer: Kimberly Freed
Not rated, 100 minutes