After he nearly wrecks his car to avoid hitting her, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) gives a ride to a nearly hysterical woman named Christina (Cloris Leachman). Later up the road there is a road block and Hammer discoversChristina has escaped from a nearby mental institution. He agrees to cover for her and when he stops at a gas station to have his car looked over, Christina runs inside and comes out with a letter for the attendant to mail. As they drive on, Christina warns Hammer that if she doesn’t make her destination, for him to remember her. Suddenly they are overtaken by thugs and Hammer awakens to Christina screaming and being tortured to death before slips back into unconsciousness. Hammer awakens in a hospital with his secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) by his bedside.
Hauled in for questioning, Hammer decides to reveal nothing- surprise! The investigators needle him about his current profession as a seedy private detective who uses Velda to turn the tables on the divorce cases he works on. Hammer is haunted by Christina’s last words “Remember me”, he wants to see why she was important enough for the police to lock her up in an institution and for the unknown thugs to torture her to death. Very much the anti-hero, Hammer is almost as bad as the crooks he’s about to chase down.
With the help of Velda and his friend Nick (Nick Dennis), Hammer is led through the usual series of twists and life-threatening situations chasing thugs provides. An added element is Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers) the seemingly helpless friend of Christina. What Hammer discovers is literally quite explosive and very much in-tune with the public opinion and paronoia during the 50’s Cold War period.
I’m no film genre buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I can say that I definitely felt like I was experiencing a new movement in film emerging with Kiss Me Deadly. Hammer is a new kind of anti-hero, unlike Bogart, he has little to no redeeming quality. He isn’t caught up on a dame in the romantical sense, he’s curious and maybe out for vengeance. He definitely takes pleasure in slapping people around, something that becomes more apparent as his search becomes more frenzied. However, Hammer is not the only unsavory element, the entire movie is gritty. The women are bold, suggestively sexual- throwing out lines like, “You don’t taste like anybody I know.” The police are cruel, secretive, without mercy. The city is dirty and hot making the people in it all the more seedy as they sweat their way through the events unfolding. Though we are used to all kinds of reality in our movies now, Kiss Me Deadly still has a freshness about it. The film was shot wonderfully and the characters fitted perfectly into it. Definitely a must see.
Look at Cloris!