Classic Movie Review: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Title: Kiss Me Deadly
Release Date: May 18, 1955
Director: Robert Aldrich
Production Company: Parklane Pictures

A young woman, Christina (Cloris Leachman in her film debut), runs barefoot down a highway, wearing nothing but a trench coat. She stops a passing sportscar, driven by Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker).  The credits roll from bottom up as they drive off in the night. Thus is the stunning beginning of this film noir classic.

When Christina ends up dead and Hammer awakens in a hospital days later, Hammer realizes that Christina must’ve been into something big. He’s a private detective who specializes in divorce cases but nevertheless ignores the police when they tell him not investigate the case.  Hammer questions mobsters, kisses beautiful woman, and punches stooges.  Every trope you may have seen in a film noir homage or parody is in this film.  I guess they had to start somewhere.

The plot revolves around the MacGuffin of a mysterious box which appears to have influenced films ranging from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Pulp Fiction.  Meeker’s Hammer is brutally violent, unsentimental, and representative of the nihilism at the heart of this film.  The story doesn’t make much sense upon a little reflection, but I think this movie is more about atmosphere and capturing the truth of Los Angeles in the many location shots.

Rating: ***