Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Reviewed on 2012 January 19
This was the film that kind of started it all for me; the one that made me think of movies as art (they sure can be) instead of just something to keep my mind entertained (nothing wrong with that either). This struck with me for years; I missed the credits and just started watching one night, with that wild opening sequence. It says something that I could tell a friend the ending of the movie and he provided me with the title before the words were even out of my mouth.
The film jumps in with both feet, literally: a clearly freaked-out woman (Chloris Leachman) is running down the highway in a trenchcoat and her bare feet, trying desperately to get away from something. She tries flagging down a couple of cars and finally leaps in front of the automobile of Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker), private eye and general sleaze. Mike’s regular turf is farming out his pretty companion Velda (Maxine Cooper) as a honey pot in adultery cases, but when this new woman is murdered, he realizes he is onto something big, i.e., possibly lucrative.
Big, yes, but he may be lucky to walk away with his life. The dead woman was named Christine, and she had access to or knowledge of something big; something that people are willing to kill for. Mike and Velda are in danger unless he finds out why she was murdered.
I’ve not read the Mickey Spillane novel, but the other half did, and he was happy with the movie too. It’s a very nasty late noir piece, and while Hammer isn’t likable here, he isn’t supposed to be. He’s a mercenary, plain and simple, and the women in this thing aren’t saints either. This movie probably also has the most famous McGuffin of all. Dames. Tough guys. Secrets, McGuffins and whatsits. This is how you do it.
Three chocolate morsels. One of a kind.