Director Robert Aldrich's 1955 film noir classic is back on the big screen. And it's as vibrant, thrilling, and - yes - shocking, as ever. In Kiss Me Deadly, cynical private investigator Mike Hammer (a magnetic Ralph Meeker) is drawn into an underworld conspiracy after witnessing the brutal murder of mystery blonde, Christina (Cloris Leachman). The razor-edged dialogue, unflinching violence, and anti-hero protagonist influenced a generation of noir filmmakers; Tarantino even referenced this movie in Pulp Fiction. Don't miss it.
It's the amoral, charismatic, sometimes brutal Hammer who makes this film feel so contemporary, even after 50 years. After picking up a distressed girl wearing only a trench coat, his car is run off the road by thugs who torture her to death. Hammer seizes his chance: realising that Christina must be "mixed up in something big", he lies to police, and starts hunting for the killers. Soon, via sleazy bars and underground boxing gyms, he's on the tail of big-time bookie Carl Evello (Paul Stewart) and a conspiracy involving a precious case, with mysterious, glowing contents (yes, just like Pulp Fiction).
"RALPH MEEKER IS ELECTRIC"
It's a thrilling ride through the criminal dregs and overlords of 50s Los Angeles. Even the period detail - from one-piece bathing suits to an enormous, wall-mounted reel-to-reel answer machine - is a joy. But this movie stands, unequivocally, on its merits. Masterful accumulation of tension is accompanied by a smouldering performance from Maxine Cooper as Hammer's assistant and lover, Velda. Ralph Meeker is electric in his understated portrayal of Hammer, the calculating anti-hero; who knows why he never really hit the big time? What's more, this release restores the film's original, revelatory ending: just as Aldrich intended.