Kiss Me Deadly

When studying the classic noirs, I found a fascinating turn in the traditional hero psyche with the advent of Mickey Spillane’s classic private investigator, Mike Hammer (obviously given a phallic, macho name). Hammer, unlike the restrained Marlowe, is a brutal Playboy type male with few morals and no objections to beating others for information, brutalizing anyone who stands in his way and most film scholars cite Kiss Me Deadly as the beginning of the end of the traditional noir heroes like Marlowe. In this odd, apocalyptic, highly stylized film, Hammer finds himself on the trail of a glowing briefcase (later used in Pulp Fiction and Repo Man) containing a nuclear device. Women and tricksters stand in his way and he has no problem with dominating all, which we get from the start of the film, which has Hammer nearly running down a woman (naked save for a trench coat) in the middle of the road. Grudgingly, he agrees to give her a ride, although ticked that he’d almost ruined his car (preferring material goods to people). The film, ironically made by liberals, dispensed with some of the more objectionable right wing philosophies of the character, according to James Naremore’s "More Than Night," and offered the women and other characters a chance to criticize the self-indulgent, cruel monster of a noir detective. Thus, we’re never sure if we want to root for Hammer or root for his destruction (either way, we’re forced to have him as our guide) and he marks the end of the Marlowe-type hero and classic noir and helped pave the way for the next wave of noir and the antihero. A strange film to be sure but important in the genre/style and contains one of the most breathtakingly urgent openings—to this day, it still shouts its creativity from the rooftops with the audacity of opening credits that must be read backwards in order to be understood.