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
Sleazy, tawdry B-noir doesn't get any sleazier or tawdrier than Robert Aldrich's jazzy and astonishingly entertaining "Kiss Me Deadly." This film was released late in the life cycle of the film noir genre. By 1958 and Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," true noir would be just about washed up. Any noir film from that point forward would be self-consciously aware that it was tipping its hat to an established genre. But "Deadly" came out when films still didn't have to work at being noirish---they just WERE, and dazzlingly so.
Born-to-play-a-bully Ralph Meeker plays tough-guy detective Mike Hammer, who's in the wrong place at the wrong time and picks up a mysterious panic-stricken girl (Cloris Leachman), who's just escaped from an asylum. From that moment forward, he finds himself tangled up in a barely lucid plot, in which a bunch of baddies want to get their hands on something the girl either had or knew about. Hammer doesn't know what it is, but he knows that if so many people want it, it's something he probably wants too, and the race for the great "whatsit" is on.
If you wanted to teach a film class about the look and attitude of a film noir, you couldn't pick a better film than this one. I found myself on a recent viewing of this film pausing my DVD player and studying the frame (because, sadly, this is what I do in my spare time), rehearsing in my mind what I would tell a class about any particular composition. And aside from the style, the film is steeped in noir sentiment--it's not simply cynical, like the glossier studio noirs of the 40's; it's downright apocryphal. It's not simply one man undone by the vengeful forces of fate here, but an entire civilization on the brink of extinction.
So pop this in and have a great time with it--feel free to quote it liberally, as there are plenty of juicy lines worth quoting. But as you watch it, you might want to stay away from the windows, for as Mike Hammer's hot-to-trot sometime girlfriend, sometime secretary Velda says, someone may "blow you a kiss."
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