A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
A frightened woman is running barefoot on a highway, trying desperately to flag a car. After several cars pass her by, the woman sees another car approaching, and to make sure either the car stops - or, she's killed, she stands in the path of an on-coming car. Private Investigator Mike Hammer is the one at the wheel, and after almost hitting the woman, he tells her to get in. The woman's name is Christina Bailey.. She is obviously on the run, being barefoot and wearing nothing but a trench coat, and the scent of fear. Whoever was after her eventually catches up with them. Christina has information they want, but dies while being questioned. The killers fake an accident by pushing Hammer's car off the road, but, he survives, waking up in hospital two weeks later. As Mike starts to investigate Christina's death, he's told by the police to stay out of it, but, the hard-nosed PI proceeds anyways. Little did he know that Christina's secret would lead to death and destruction. Written by
Robert Aldrich was a no-nonsense film director. When he undertook the direction of this film, little did he know it was going to become the extraordinary movie it turned out to be. The fame seems to have come by its discovery in France, as it usually is the case. Based on Mickey Spillane's novel and adapted by Al Bezzerides, the movie has an unique style and it's recommended viewing for fans of the film noir genre.
Right from the start, the film gets our imagination as we watch a young woman running along a California highway. That sequence proved Mr. Aldrich's ability to convey the idea of a disturbed young woman that seems to have escaped from a mental institution. The plot complicates itself as Hammer learns that Christine, the young woman, has died. He decides to investigate, which is what he does best.
Some excellent comments have been submitted to this forum, so we will not even try to expand in the action but will only emphasize in the tremendous visual style Mr. Aldrich added to the film, which seems to be its main attraction. For a fifty year old film, it still has a crisp look to it thanks to the impressive black and white cinematography of Ernest Lazlo, who had a keen eye to show us Hammer's world as he makes it come alive. The great musical score by Frank DeVol fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the L.A. of the fifties.
Ralph Meeker made an excellent contribution as Mike Hammer. He dominates the film with his presence. Albert Decker, Paul Stewart, Miriam Carr, Maxine Cooper, Fortuno Bonanova, and especially Cloris Leachman, in her screen debut, make this film the favorite it has become.
Fans of the genre can thank Mr. Aldrich for making a film that didn't pretend to be anything, yet has stayed as a favorite all these years.
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