Film of the week: Kiss Me Deadly

This week’s film is really outstanding.

Kiss Me Deadly is first and foremost incredibly entertaining if you like the nasty. It’s mean, brutal, and hugely fun.

Now that I have your attention — Kiss Me Deadly is a late film noir, made in 1955 and loosely based on a Mike Hammer novel by Mickey Spillane. Kiss Me Deadly brilliantly bridges the divide between the 1940’s Raymond Chandler-style noir and the paranoia of the Cold War era of the 1950’s — as you watch it you realize you’re seeing a vivid portrayal of the end of one era and the start of another, much scarier era.

Kiss Me Deadly‘s protagonist, using the term loosely, is Mike Hammer, but a Mike Hammer who is amoral and much meaner than the one you’ve seen on TV. This Mike Hammer, played by the improbably named tough-guy actor Ralph Meeker, pimps out his faithful sidekick Velma and makes a living by blackmailing adulterers. He’s a sleazebag and a thug with almost no redeeming qualities except a certain pigheadedness — the Terminator, before his time — that comes in handy when he finds himself dealing with people far worse than himself.

Additional enticement:

The film’s tagline was “I don’t care what you do to me, Mike – just do it fast!”

According to IMDB, the Kefauver Commission, a federal unit dedicated to investigating corrupting influences in the 1950s, singled out this film as 1955’s number one menace to American youth.

And, the film was written by a blacklisted leftist screenwriter named Al Bezzerides, who later said, “Spillane didn’t like what I did with his book. I ran into him at a restaurant and, boy, he didn’t like me.” (I bet not.)

Finally, Kiss Me Deadly directly inspired Pulp Fiction and Repo Man, two other obvious must-see films.