Kiss Me Deadly


Kiss Me Deadly

Critics Consensus

An intriguing, wonderfully subversive blend of art and commerce, Kiss Me Deadly is an influential noir classic.



Total Count: 40


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,265
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Movie Info

This film noir stars Ralph Meeker as Mickey Spillane's anti-social private eye Mike Hammer. After he and a hitchhiker are kidnapped by thugs, the semiconscious Hammer helplessly watches as the girl is tortured to death. Seeking vengeance, Hammer searches for the secret behind the girl's murder.


Ralph Meeker
as Mike Hammer
Cloris Leachman
as Christina Bailey/Berga Torn
Jack Lambert
as Sugar Smallhouse
Jack Elam
as Charlie Max
Percy Helton
as Morgue Doctor
Fortunio Bonanova
as Carmen Trivago
Leigh Snowden
as Girl at Pool
James Seay
as FBI Man
Jesslyn Fax
as Mrs. Super
Strother Martin
as Harvey Wallace, Truck Driver
Leonard Mudie
as Athletic Club Clerk
Art Loggins
as Bartender
Bob Sherman
as Gas Station Man
Keith McConnell
as Athletic Club Clerk
Sam Balter
as Radio announcer
Paul Richards
as Attacker
Joe Hernandez
as Radio announcer
Eddie Beal
as Sideman
Kitty White
as Vocalist in Club (uncredited)
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Critic Reviews for Kiss Me Deadly

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (1)

  • The actors' idiosyncratic voices, wrapped around such chrome-plated poetry as "the great whatsit" and "va-va-voom," are as hauntingly musical as Aldrich's images.

    Sep 12, 2016 | Full Review…
  • This independently produced low-budget film was a shining example for the New Wave directors -- Truffaut, Godard, et al -- who found it proof positive that commercial films could accommodate the quirkiest and most personal of visions.

    Mar 27, 2009 | Full Review…
  • The trail leads to a series of amorous dames, murder-minded plug-uglies and dangerous adventures that offer excitement but have little clarity to let the viewer know what's going on.

    Oct 30, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A crucial influence on what would become the French new wave, an irresistibly seedy trip through the Los Angeles underworld, and a valuable artifact of Cold War anxiety.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
  • It's not the greatest thriller ever, but Kiss Me Deadly is classic film noir.

    Apr 15, 2005 | Rating: 3/5
  • It's not a horror movie by any means, but like a good horror movie it has images and tiny loose ends that make sense on a subconscious level.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Kiss Me Deadly

  • Sep 10, 2014
    Tough-as-nails private detective Mike Hammer is thrown into the middle of a murder mystery when a desperate hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman in her first film role) flags him down on the highway. Thereafter he's beaten, nearly killed, but thereby persuaded to reluctantly take the case - which involves reading poetry - to finally solve. What is this Great Whatsis everyone seems ready to kill for? Considered classic film noir, it makes several leaps of illogical thinking and yet nonetheless drags one along to its sensational last quarter. Tasty.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2013
    One of the last American film noirs, Robert Aldrich's influential "Kiss Me Deadly" is neither narratively perfect nor technically sound, but it is perhaps the most brutal, most unflinching and most thematically mature one in the entire genre. Ralph Meeker embodies Mickey Spillane's cynical, sleazy private investigator Mike Hammer with an aggressiveness that's almost frightening; he really seems to be enjoying it as he beats bad guys to a pulp.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Apr 09, 2012
    Not only is this film cool but good as well. I watched this because it was supposed to be influenced by Alfred Hitchcock. There's some similarities like a McGuffin. That McGuffin being the "Whatsit". That was a great concept right their. As soon as they introduced the "Whatsit" I knew right away that this film now has a sub-genera of science fiction. It was a great shock because the whole time I thought this film was supposed to be true to life. The ending was intense and a shock once the "Whatsit" gets opened. There are two endings to this film but I don't want to tell you what they are because I don't like spoilers. The acting itself could have been better. The writing was great, it had excellent character development. There's much talk online that Mike Hammer is a repressed homosexual. Whether this is true or not I have no idea. If you want proof that he isn't just look at the poster. The directing was also really good couldn't have done it better myself. Good choice on the camera angles. Great cinematography too, it looked really nice. The producing was my favorite part. I prefer the production value of the classics over the newer films. An advance in technology can be a bad thing as well I guess. In conclusion, this is a great blend of film noir and science fiction. You don't see much films like that don't you. If you like classic film noir then this should be one of your favorites.
    Eduardo T Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2012
    A meandering, nihilistic Noir that birthed the "golden briefcase" motif that still perplexes film students in universities across the country. Throwing us right in the action, director Robert Aldrich begins the film on the opening road with a marvelous title sequence. Our protagonist detective Mike Hammer, is barreling down the freeway, nearly careening off the road at every turn. This opening excellently sums up Hammer's ethos. He is a man that lacks caution, wastes no time in getting what he wants, and pays no mind to the lives he endangers in the process. Ralph Meeker is pretty good as the rabid anti-communist and barbaric detective. Unlike other noir detectives, such as Borgart's Phillip Marlowe, Meeker's Hammer isn't exactly charming. Yet, what he lacks in the charisma department he makes up for in sadism. Everything else you need to know about his character is summed up when a young woman asks him if he has ever read poetry. The look is hard to describe, but trust me when I say you don't want to be at the receiving end of it. However, this brute, our "hero", isn't so bad when compared to the rest of the lot in the film. Aldrich's world is very bleak. Everyone is out to get one-another, and even doctors accept kickbacks. Usually dabbling in petty divorce cases, Hammer stumbles into the apocalyptic underworld when the death of a young woman leads him to believe that there might be more dollars signs in his future. He ends up tracking down a mysterious box, much like the one in the Pandora myth, in which it's very opening portends some disastrous consequences. Without getting into specifics, one can glean from the film that Aldrich & screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides didn't think the realities of the nuclear age had positive consequences in American culture. While the film isn't perfect and has a tendency to wander, the ending is one of the ballsiest that I have encountered in a long time. This alone is worth moving it to the top of your queue. However, if you are one of those people who would still like to believe that the world is made out of hugs and rainbows, then you might want to leave this on the shelf for the time being.
    Reid V Super Reviewer

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