Directed by Robert Aldrich, written by A.I. Bezzerides (screenplay), Mickey Spillane (novel)
“First you find a little thread. The little thread leads you to a string. The string leads you to a rope, and from the rope you hang by the neck.”
At the film’s opening, Mike Hammer is driving his sports car down a highway at night when he’s waylaid by an under-clothed female hitchhiker who causes him to swerve to avoid her and damages his car. As the two drive off she tries to calm her hysteria while he scowls and bawls her out. Their drive is interrupted, she’s tortured to death and both are returned to his car with Mike unconscious, after which he wakes in a hospital room. Despite police warnings, Hammer can’t let the situation go and starts digging into the mystery.
This thing has badass noir written all over it–this time almost every element of the story revolves directly around the character of Mike Hammer. Played here by Ralph Meeker, the handsome investigator has women throwing themselves at him all film long while he carelessly disregards them and goes about his mission.
And he’s an incredible fighter, often disabling foes with a single blow. When a straight up, one-shot dispatch isn’t on the menu, he’s got no problem slapping people silly ‘till he gets the information he needs.
As the super-bad Hammer looms larger and larger over the course of the movie, growing from Private Detective to Epic Detective, the narrative itself is not to be outdone as the key to a mysterious box cries out for a lock. As the esteemed Dr. Emmett Brown might say, “when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”
This one somehow flew a bit under the radar for being such a spectacular film. While perhaps a bit light on that cut-‘em-up dialogue compared to other majors, our private investigator Hammer is a man’s man and as hard as the hard-boiled come.
Catapulting itself near the top of the film noir list, Kiss Me Deadly is required viewing.
“You’re never around when I need you.”
“You never need me when I’m around.”