KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

Regarded by many critics as the ultimate film noir, and by many more as the finest movie adaptation of a book by Mickey Spillane, Kiss Me Deadly stars Ralph Meeker as Spillane’s anti-social private eye Mike Hammer. While driving down a lonely road late one evening, Hammer picks up a beautiful blonde hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman), dressed in nothing but a raincoat. At first, Hammer assumes that the incoherent girl is an escaped lunatic; his mind is changed for him when he and the girl are abducted by two thugs. The men torture the girl to death as the semiconscious Hammer watches helplessly. He himself escapes extermination when the murderers’ car topples off a cliff and he is thrown clear. now he is seeking vengeance. The plot of the book is jettisoned for something altogether more terrifying and mysterious: Possession of a box that glows from within every time it is opened, however briefly. If that sounds like Pulp Fiction, well, it is, only 40 years earlier. Filmed in less than 3 weeks. The piano selection playing on the radio during one of the final scenes is Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, Opus 10, No. 12. The Kefauver Commission, a federal unit dedicated to investigating corrupting influences in the 1950s, singled this out as 1955’s number one menace to American youth. Because of this, Robert Aldrich felt compelled to conduct a writing campaign for the free speech rights of independent film-makers.

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