May 22, 1955 [Kiss Me Deadly]

At the start of Kiss Me Deadly--and has there ever been a starker, more harrowing, rub-your-nose-in-it movie prologue?--the girl, naked under her trench coat, running wildly onto the highway, caught in Mickey Spillane's headlights (Ralph Meeker sour in his conviction that he's right and the world is all wrong), manages to calm down enough to observe Hammer: the selfish type, given to cool cars and body-building, indulging his desires, sneering at what he considers to be the weak. She all but writes him off--but at the last minute, before squealing tires and torture separate them, she intones, “Remember me.”

And as cynical as Mike gets--OK: brutal, ugly--and yes: as whole-heartedly narcissistic in his desires--the scenes with his Girl Friday, Velda, are compellingly obscene, her sweaty, vulpine face lowered to Spillane’s so he can gnaw on it at his leisure--despite all that, he does not forget the girl, and slices into everything that impedes him--all friends disposed of, cool-cat daddios and sports-car enthusiasts pow! zoom! in the ashcan, like poor Nick the mechanic, busted for good--until Hammer's own code turns on him--the movie itself giving in to the urge to knock that smirk off his face; and our hero--making us squirm for wanting heroes in the first place--walks right into it, joined by a gun-moll Pandora, the “great whatsit” calling to them like sirens at the edge of the ocean.


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