Eye For Film >> Movies >> Kiss Me Deadly (1955) Film Review
When sleazy private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picks up a young hitchhiker, wearing only a trenchcoat, it soon becomes clear that he's bitten off more than he can chew. Before long, he's beaten unconscious, the girl is murdered and he's faced with threats and bribery in an attempt to make him forget he ever saw her. But Hammer can't let the case go, and his investigations lead him into a web of deadly secrets, built around one of the greatest terrors of the age.
Kiss Me Deadly is one of a series of adaptations, based on Mickey Spillane's novels about the Hammer character, and it is widely considered to be the best. It has all the classic elements of the American noir crime genre - sharp suits, fast cars, guns, conspiracy, dark secrets and dangerous women. Its characters are primarily driven by greed, if not by fear, yet despite his protestations of emotional invulnerability Hammer's humanity comes through, with Meeker's finely tuned performance making the detective sympathetic without ever decreasing his cool. The supporting performances are equally strong with the various women in Hammer's life suitably charismatic as well as beautiful. If it's sometimes a little hard for a modern viewer to accept the vulnerability of Velma, herself an experienced detective, that's only because she functions as a cipher for the greater human vulnerability of which every character is ultimately made aware.
The re-release of this film gambles on its continued accessibility to a modern audience. The position of women and the ethnic stereotypes which it features need to be taken in context, but the biggest problem is its central plot point, which may be difficult to take seriously in an age of greater and more widespread scientific understanding. That said, the dialogue still rings as sharp as ever and the thrills and scares are just as powerful.
If you've enjoyed the cinematic crime homages of Tarantino and want to see the real thing, now's your chance.Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2006
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