You have only one real lasting love. Mike Hammer:
Now who could that be? Christina Bailey:
You. You're one of those self-indulgent males who thinks about nothing but his clothes, his car, himself. Bet you do push-ups every morning just to keep your belly hard.
1955 Film Noir
adaptation of the Crime Fiction
novel by Mickey Spillane
directed by Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen
, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane
) and starring Ralph Meeker as Los Angeles Private Detective Mike Hammer
. Spillane didn't like the film as it actually deconstructed his macho, tough guy creation and differed from the original story by involving Cold War
espionage and a nuclear MacGuffin
. Originally unsuccessful upon it's theatrical release it is now considered one of the classic examples of Film Noir
and later cited as influential among directors of the French New Wave
and also Quentin Tarantino
when he made Pulp Fiction
A terrified young woman wearing only a trenchcoat is running down a highway at night. She stops a car driven by private divorce detective Mike Hammer. He picks her up, from then on becoming embroiled in a plot involving murder, missing scientists and a mysterious box...
The film provides examples of:
- Anti-Hero: One of the reasons that Mickey Spillane didn't like the film was because it made the anti-heroic but otherwise moral Mike Hammer into an amoral, narcissistic bully.
- Cool Car: Mike's two seat white Jaguar convertible.
- The Coroner: Mike tries to bribe one to get a key from him. When the coroner tries to more money from him Mike slams his fingers in his desk drawer until he gives it to him.
- Damsel in Distress: Christina Bailey and later her roommate Lily Carver. Subverted in she is later revealed to be not the real Lily but Gabrielle, the mistress of the Big Bad.
- Deconstruction: Director Aldrich and the screenwriter deconstructs the Hardboiled Detective character, depicting him as an amoral, vicious narcissist.
- Femme Fatale: Lily Carver.
- Friend on the Force: Lt. Pat Murphy
- Genre Savvy: Mike figures out there's not one but two bombs planted in a car delivered to him.
- Girl Friday: Velda
- External Combustion: The killers have left a sports car outside his apartment building in perfect condition. His mechanic friend Nick goes to start it but Mike stops him and and shows that under the hood there's a bomb connected to the starter. Later when they check under the car at Nick's garage Mike shows that there was a second bomb set to go off when the car accelerates to higher speeds driving in the country.
- The Fifties
- Hardboiled Detective
- Jerk Ass: Mike, especially the scene where he breaks a valuable opera record of someone he's questioning.
- Los Angeles: Shot in location around Los Angeles. Many places shown in the film like the Bunker Hill no longer exist.
- This is transposition from the novels, which are set firmly in New York City.
- MacGuffin: The "Great Whatsit".
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot
- Pet the Dog: Mike's genuine friendship for Nick the mechanic and also his unusual (for the times) friendship and rapport with a couple of African American characters in the film.
- Playing Both Sides: Mike Hammer's method as a divorce detective. He's hired by a husband to get evidence against his wife for a divorce, then secretly is hired by the wife to get evidence against her husband.
- Rated M for Manly
- The Teaser: Christine is shown running alone on the highway at night. After she gets picked up by Mike Hammer the opening credits begin.
- The Un-Reveal: The mysterious briefcase. All we see is that it gives off a blindingly bright glow (possibly nuclear in origin).