Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – Is Mike Hammer Really Such a Bad Guy?

The conventional wisdom is that Mike Hammer as portrayed in Kiss Me Deadly is irredeemably bad.

For instance, we have Glenn Erickson in a recent article for the blog, Noir Of The Week :

Robert Aldrich and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides’ film was heralded as an extreme expression of protest against 1950s conformist complacency. It subverted Spillane by criticizing his brutal avenger Mike Hammer as greedy, narcissistic and infantile.

And from the IMDB page for the movie:

Kiss Me Deadly is the definitive sleazy detective movie… Mickey Spillane’s sadistic private eye Mike Hammer, turned from successful private eye to sleazy bedroom dick, is the quintessential anti-hero, doing just about anything and everything wrong to get a piece of the pie that the characters call ‘The Big What’s-it’.

Have you ever you had the feeling after reading a review or critique of a film you have seen, that the writer has seen a different movie? This is how I feel about these commentaries.

The Ralph Meeker character, was a sleazy PI, but after his encounter with Christina, and his near-death at the hands of her killers, he is a changed man. Is it so strange that he wants to hunt down those who tried to kill him? Is he driven solely by his need to track down the The Big What’s-it? Or maybe he is haunted by Christina’s admonition to not forget her? So he slaps around a couple of guys, snaps a vinyl record, and crushes the hand of the creep at the morgue? Is he any more immoral than the Feds? Gimme a break.

7 Comments

  1. jane

    I just watched “KISS ME DEADLY”. I left with the “what the hell happened?” feeling. I have read several Hammer novels and could not remember any such sci-fi crapola in any of them. Thanks for the blog/website information. That the script was non-Spillane was interesting. I DO wonder at times whether the screen writer and I have read the same book.
    I like your site.

  2. Dan McFist

    A leftist at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides denied any conscious intention to put political meaning in his script. However, his liberal bias breaks through, as evidenced by his characterization of Mike Hammer.

    Author Micky Spillane’s Hammer is a patriotic anti-communist who does battle on behalf of anyone who’s been wronged. A .45 automatic is his tool of choice because its the only thing criminals understand. He walks a fine line, but in the end an innocent person’s death is avenged, and justice is served.

    Movie screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides’ Hammer is a sleazy, capitalist pig who makes his living by blackmailing adulterous husbands and wives. He takes sadistic pleasure in violence for its own sake, no self-doubt involved.

    Bezzerides wrote of the script: “I wrote it fast because I had contempt for it … Spillane didn’t like what I did with his book. I ran into him at a restaurant and, boy, he didn’t like me.”

    Spillane’s book about a patriotic P.I. busting the mob and bringing down corrupt politicians was probably too pro-America for leftist Bezzerides, so he turned protagonist Mike Hammer into a sadistic capitalist who ends up destroying LA in a nuclear blast. No wonder Spillane wasn’t too happy!

  3. Dan, I won’t get into a political argument, but many share Bezzeridi’s views. As I say in my post, I don’t buy the argument that Bezzeridi’s Hammer is weak or “sleazy etc.”

  4. sakara

    KISS ME DEADLY is infinately better than THE TWO JAKES—though CHINATOWN, with Nichoson slapping around incest victim Faye Dunaway, and having sex with her days after her husband’s murder, does make Nicholson’s detective sleazier than Hammer.

    Bezzerides having contempt for Spillane’s book isn’t much different than Francis Coppola’s thinking that the novel, THE GODFATHER, was “sleazy” (Coppola’s own description).

    (as for being anti-communist…Hollywood now days is very happy to censor many a movie for the Chinese market, and for ex-kgb agent Putin’s Russia.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *