In this atomic adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s novel, directed by Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
, The Dirty Dozen
), the good manners of the 1950s are blown to smithereens. Ralph Meeker (Paths of Glory
, The Dirty Dozen
) stars as snarling private dick Mike Hammer, whose decision one dark, lonely night to pick up a hitchhiking woman sends him down some terrifying byways. Brazen and bleak, Kiss Me Deadly
is a film noir masterpiece as well as an essential piece of cold war paranoia, and it features as nervy an ending as has ever been seen in American cinema.
The grimy, none-more-black end of film noir, Robert Aldrich's 1955 masterwork has never looked better, courtesy of a fantastic new Criterion transfer that burrows even further into the dark. (Best visual reveal: the wild, Woody Woodpeckerish jut of hair at the back of Ralph Meeker's head, somehow signifying both the movie's New Wave futuristic vibe, and a hint that the hero's not quite as well put together as he imagines.) Although the main draw for fans might be the inclusion of the recently discovered (and even more apocalyptic) original ending, the disc also sports an extremely informative, slightly dry commentary by Aldrich scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini, as well as a too-brief appreciation by devout fan Alex Cox, whose Repo Man
lifts one of the earlier movie's most indelible images. Most fascinating, however, are a pair of documentaries about author Mickey Spillane and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, two crusty guys from the streets who make no effort to hide their absolute disdain for the other's work. Watching these two immovable objects ram against each other only makes the film's unsettlingly unstable fission even more magnificent. Absolute 3-D pow, as one of the characters says. --Andrew Wright