Kiss Me Deadly [1955]

Director: Robert Aldrich
Stars: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 106 minutes

Kiss Me Deadly starts off with a bang--a young woman (Cloris Leachman) in bare feet and a trench coat runs along a highway, frantically trying to flag down help. In desperation, she finally throws herself into traffic, and the car she stops belongs to detective Mike Hammer. The pace never lets up--we're not even 15 minutes into the movie and there's already been a murder, a mysterious letter, an attempt to kill Hammer, and, of course, a warning to just stay out of it. Hammer, tired of lowlife divorce cases, smells something big and can't let it go. The film is exciting, about as dark as a noir can get, and full of skewed camera angles and mysterious whose-shoes-are-those shots. At the center, of course, is Mike Hammer, a detective so cool he can win a fight with nothing more than a box of popcorn as a weapon. Hammer knows his opera singers as well as his amateur prizefighters, and he makes the ladies swoon, but he's far from a conventional hero. In fact, he's rather emphatically not a nice guy; Hammer happily whores out his secretary-girlfriend Velma to cinch up those divorce cases and has a penchant for slamming other people's fingers in drawers. Even the bad guys know he's a sleazebag. ("What's it worth to you to turn your considerable talents back to the gutter you crawled out of?") Ralph Meeker plays Hammer's ambivalence brilliantly, swinging easily between sexy and just plain mean. Kiss Me Deadly is just terrific. Stop reading this review and watch it already. --Ali Davis

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