Saturday, February 15, 2014
Stylish, atomic age, hard-boiled detective thriller featuring Mickey Spillane's private eye "Mike Hammer" (played here by Ralph Meeker) as he tries to solve the murder of the mysterious Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman). Meeker's cold, violent portrayal of Mike Hammer seems worlds apart from screen detectives of just a decade prior, acting by any means necessary to get the information he's looking for, without any particular sense of honor or ethics. Director Robert Aldrich establishes a mood of heightened paranoia, aided by Ernest Laszlo's stark, high-contrast B&W cinematography. Gaby Rodgers is especially effective as the duplicitous Lily Carver, aka Gabrielle, who leads Hammer in pursuit of the plot's MacGuffin - a radioactive device referred to only as "the great whatsit" - whose diabolical contents are finally revealed in the film's nearly apocalyptic finale.