Cloris Leachman

KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

Kiss Me Deadly Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer

This week at the Hardboiled Hangover, we’re taking a look at some films based on the books of Mickey Spillane – the prolific pulp maestro of sex and carnage. During his time on earth, Spillane (1918 – 2006) sold tens of millions of books, most notably his Mike Hammer series. A private detective who was fueled by rage and moral righteousness, Hammer was a misanthrope who preferred beating confessions out of riff raff rather than questioning them. Spillane put the hard back in hardboiled, with Mike Hammer as his literary tool for vengeance. He certainly wasn’t going for deep insights into the human condition. Mickey wrote to get paid and his books were all about instant gratification of the two-fisted sort.

In Harry Essex’s I, the Jury, Mike Hammer is a dim-witted, primitive goof who punches his way out of a whodunnit. The next film to feature the private dick stepped it up a notch, portraying Hammer as a crass neanderthal who not only uses his fists instead of wit, he’s a pure sadist. Despite having the meanest of mean bastards as a protagonist, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly is a landmark film of the classic noir period’s twilight years. It’s a satirical look at Mickey Spillane’s creation, while also miraculously blending hardboiled noir with apocalyptic science fiction. The mystery at the heart of the film unfurls against a violent maze of Red Scare paranoia and features one of the greatest MacGuffins of all time – one of white hot nuclear fire.

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