Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

In Robert Aldrich's suspenseful Cold War Era masterpiece - it was a jarring and violent crime and mystery film that was an adaptation of Mickey Spillane's 1952 pulp fiction novel of the same name. It was the definitive, apocalyptic, paranoid, science-fiction film noir of all time - at the close of the classic noir period - although there was no explicit mention of the words bomb, atomic, or thermo-nuclear in the film. It featured inventive camera angles depicting violence and murders during the mid-1950s.

The protagonist of the nihilistic independent film was a cheap and sleazy, mean, contemptible, fascistic, hardened private investigator/vigilante gumshoe whose trademarks were brutish violence, misogyny, the end-justifies-the-means philosophy and speed. The tough PI ruthlessly pursued the white-hot, deadly apocalyptic object in a mysterious 'Pandora's box' ("the great whatzit"), ultimately leading to nuclear catastrophe and annihilation.

  • in the questing tale's startling pre-credits sequence, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) was driving late one night toward Los Angeles, when he viewed a pair of naked feet stumbling and running down the middle of a lonely highway at night - a near-hysterical, panting, barely-clothed woman with closely-cropped hair who wore only a white trenchcoat, rasped and breathed heavily on the highly-amplified soundtrack, as she helplessly tried to flag down passing cars that flashed by her
  • the female strategically positioned herself in the middle of the road, by standing and holding her arms out in a V [or crucifixion pose] as Hammer's two-seated, Jaguar sports car/convertible approached and blinded her in its high-beamed headlights. He snarled as he picked up the doomed hitchhiker: "You almost wrecked my car. Well? Get in!"
  • then came the strangely-presented opening credits - the camera positioned itself behind the two and was pointed toward the windshield and the highway's white line as the most disorienting, skewed, upside-down set of film credits began to scroll. The slanted credits cryptically moved from the top to the bottom of the screen, yet they had to be read backwards from bottom to top
  • at a roadblock where Hammer faked that the woman was his wife, he realized she was "a fugitive from the laughing house." During their drive in his sports-car, she claimed that she had been improperly detained at the institution. At a gas station during a quick stop, the female privately asked the attendant to mail a letter for her. [Note: It was later revealed it was mailed to Hammer himself, using his address on the steering column's registration.]
  • on their way again, she quickly sensed Hammer's personality: "You're one of those self-indulgent males who thinks about nothing but his clothes, his car, himself." She identified herself to Hammer as Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman), and claimed she was named after the poet Christina Rossetti. She gave a description of her name, and some words of warning derived from one of Rossetti's romantic poems:

    "Christina Rossetti wrote love sonnets. I was named after her....Get me to that bus stop and forget you ever saw me. If we don't make that bus stop...if we don't, 'Remember me'."

  • her last words to Hammer were: "Remember me" (both spoken and mailed in a letter to him after her death), when the two were apprehended by villainous thugs in a black car who forced them off the road
  • in a horrifying sequence while the semi-conscious detective laid on a bed and then on the floor, the mysterious female screamed as she was quickly tortured and killed (gruesomely with pliers semi-off-screen) by the evil pursuers, with only her twitching legs dangling off a table, as an unidentified criminal mastermind with shiny shoes spoke. [Note: The villain was later revealed to be Dr. G.E. Soberin.] He told his underlings that the victim couldn't be brought back from the dead:

  • "If you revive her, do you know what that would be? Resurrection, that's what it would be. And do you know what resurrection means? It means raise the dead. And just who do you think you are that you think you can raise the dead?"

  • their bodies were placed in Hammer's car before it was pushed off the side of a cliff and burst into flames. Her body was incinerated inside the car, but miraculously, the unconscious Hammer survived and after three days awakened in his hospital bed without any visible scars or injuries
  • during his own brutal pursuit of the criminals while recalling her haunting words: "Remember me," Hammer deliberately ignored Christina's advice to "forget you ever saw me" - and didn't give up on an investigation into her demise
  • Hammer was aided in his search by his sexy and limber, pimping secretary/lover Velda Wickman (or Wakeman!) (Maxine Cooper), his 'girl Friday' whose specialty with Hammer was pimping or prostituting herself to frame men for infidelity (divorce case frame-ups)
  • Hammer followed a trail of clues to Christina's former home, that had already been searched by the police; he was looking for posthumous clues, and found a book on the bedstand of Christina's bedroom that she had referred to with the words: "Remember me": Sonnets of Christina Georgina Rossetti
  • Hammer's investigation led him to the Jalisco Hotel, where he met Christina's alleged ex-boardinghouse 'roommate' - the real femme fatale of the film. She claimed that her name was 'Lily Carver' (Gaby Rodgers) - a pixieish, waif-like blonde with closely cropped hair wearing a white, terry-cloth bathrobe. She was reclining in bed and had a gun pointed at his crotch when he entered. 'Lily' was a deceptive fraud - although Hammer didn't know that until later. The strange young lady duped him with a false name (her actual name was Gabrielle), and she was revealed to be impersonating Christina's roommate Lily Carver - whom she had killed
'Lily Carver' (Gaby Rodgers)
  • during Hammer's circuitous route to determine clues to Christina's background and secrets, there was a short interlude with vacuous, amorous, nymphomanaic blonde femme fatale Friday (Marian Carr) who was poolside in a mobster's Doheny mansion. After kissing him, she purred: "You don't taste like anybody I know." The amorously-inviting Friday also asked: "Will you be my friend?" but he deferred for the time being
Hammer With Floozy 'Friday' (Marian Carr)
  • Hammer soon deduced that Christina was a scientist who had a deadly 'secret' regarding a radioactive explosive missing or stolen from the Los Alamos, New Mexico Nuclear Test Site. When Hammer visited Lily a second time, he found her frightened and hiding on a lower stairwell: "They came last night right after you left. I heard them. I hid in the basement." He sheltered her in his own apartment, where she gave him a thank-you kiss
  • Hammer spoke to Velda, who knew he was being pursued and asked him about the object of everyone's quest: "And who are they? They're the nameless ones who kill people for the great whatzit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what?"
  • shortly later, Velda was kidnapped while on her way to a date with a suspicious character known as Dr. Soberin
  • after Hammer returned home to open Christina's letter mailed to him earlier (with only two words: "REMEMBER ME"), he was knocked out by two hoods (who were also seeking the valuable but mysterious 'great whatzit'), and driven to a beach house; there, Hammer was tied up and subjected to abuse by a man with blue suede shoes - the aforementioned Dr. Soberin (Albert Dekker), a trafficker in atomic material, and also Christina's torturer. Soberin philosophically advised Hammer to remember - the words asked in Christina's letter, but after an injection of a truth serum (sodium pentothal), Hammer only rambled incomprehensible phrases and couldn't reveal anything of value to the thuggish gangster-kidnappers
  • Hammer escaped from the beach house and returned home, to pick up Lily; after trying to decipher the mantra-like phrase: "Remember Me," he then proceeded with her to the morgue where Christina's body was in a drawer following an autopsy; from the corrupt coroner Dr. Kennedy (Percy Helton), Hammer acquired a key that Christina had swallowed and was subsequently retrieved from her stomach; the key (labeled H.A.C.) led to a locker at the Hollywood Athletic Club (HAC), where Hammer finally located the 'great whatzit'
The Great Whatzit Discovered by Hammer in an HAC Locker
  • the object of his search - the "great whatzit," was a leather-bound and strapped outer case with a metal-lined box inside of it that was filled with nuclear material (loosely identified with "Manhattan project. Los Alamos. Trinity"). A searing white-hot light emanated from within when he briefly opened it - it burned his wrist; Hammer left the case in the locker, and returned to his car, where he discovered that Lily had disappeared
  • after returning home, Hammer was confronted by police who told him that Lily was really an imposter (and possible murderess of Christina's roommate after adopting her name); she was identified as a "dame who's passing herself off as Carver"
  • apparently, Christina had led him to an atomic, 'glowing' box containing 'the great whatzit', and the box's sinister, deceitful conspirator Dr. Soberin - a trafficker in atomic material produced during the Manhattan Project (in Los Alamos, NM). Soberin was one of the villains who had tortured Christina earlier
  • in the meantime, someone stole the 'great whatzit' from the locker and killed the attendant - the dead victim was viewed on the floor as the camera panned down the broken-open, empty locker
  • Hammer was able to trace the missing Velda's whereabouts to Dr. Soberin's secluded Malibu beach house cottage and hideout - the same place where he had been held captive and questioned earlier
  • in the film's controversial, fiery and apocalyptic melt-down climax at Soberin's hideout, both Dr. Soberin and his accomplice/moll Gabrielle/Lily were speaking to each other about the mysterious box, stolen from the locker. Intensely curious, she knew the box had value but asked as she caressed its top: "What's in the box?" Dr. Soberin delivered many dire warnings to her, both referring to Pandora's Box and also Lot's wife ("She disobeyed and she was changed into a pillar of salt"). He also affirmed:

    "The head of the Medusa. That's what's in the box. And whoever looks on her will be changed, not into stone, but into brimstone and ashes."

  • she deduced that Dr. Soberin was about to betray and ditch her, and felt deceived and double-crossed: "Whatever is in that box - it must be very precious. So many people have died for it." She felt that she was being denied her rightful half of the proceeds from the theft and attempted sale of the 'whatzit' (fissionable material). She threatened him with possessing the "Whatsit" box all for herself, without dividing it: "I'll take it all if - you don't mind."
  • she shot her deceitful boss, and as he died, Soberin sternly warned her about the Pandora's box: "Listen to me, as if I were Cerberus barking with all his heads at the gates of Hell, I will tell you where to take it. But don't, don't open the box."
  • when Hammer burst into the room asking for Velda, the avaricious Gabrielle/Lily was just about to open the box. She greeted him and seductively commanded sexual favors - with a wide smile and her gun:

    "Hello, Mike....Come in. Come in. Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar's kiss that says 'I love you.' It means something else. You're good at giving such kisses. Kiss me."

  • with the femme fatale's destructive sexuality and promise of the kiss of death (although she never physically kissed Hammer), she fired point-blank into the midsection of the misogynistic hero before he reached her, and he fell to the floor - wounded
  • undeterred, disobedient and ignorant, she lifted the leather top from the case of the strapped Pandora's 'whatzit' box, the film's doomsday MacGuffin. She then touched the lid, feeling the heat with her caress. She greedily raised the cover in a quest for knowledge of what was contained within - producing a hissing, hellish, unearthly noise that emanated from its interior as the searing and blinding white-hot light hit her face. She pursued her perverse fascination with the fiery light by lifting the lid even higher
  • she had unleashed and released the deadly, secret, apocalyptic forces inside, and the box couldn't be closed, as she became a flaring pillar of fire consuming her. As the destructive, white-hot, evil forces were freed, she became a shrieking, human torch. In the aftermath, detective Hammer revived and stirred on the floor, and witnessed Lily's horrible death. He frantically freed the kidnapped Velda and both fled from the house
Lily Opening Up The 'WhatzIt' Box - Unleashing Apocalyptic Death
  • the brutal finale included the nuclear conflagration of the beach house as the two raced out of the exploding house and stumbled together down the beachfront and into the cooling ocean waters, where they hugged waist-deep in the foaming waves of the ocean. They watched from afar as the house was soon engulfed with a wave of flashes, fireballs, and series of mushroom-cloud explosions
  • whether Hammer and his assistant Velda survived or not was not entirely clear when the film abruptly ended - with the superimposed THE END.
The Explosive Destruction of the Beach House

Pre-Credits Sequence

Hammer to Female Hitchhiker in the Road: "You almost wrecked my car!"

Christina to Hammer: "Remember me"

Christina's Torture and Murder

Hammer Unconscious as Christina Was Killed

Hammer's Car With the Two of Them Inside Pushed Off a Cliff

Hammer's Secretary/Lover Velda (Maxine Cooper) Throughout the Film

'Lily' In Distress During Hammer's Second Visit

'Lily's' Thank-You Kiss For Hammer When He Sheltered Her in His Apartment

Dr. Soberin's Malibu Beach House Hideout

Torturer and Criminal Mastermind Dr. Soberin - Only Identified by Shoes

Hammer With Lily Before Driving to the Morgue

Dr. Soberin with His Accomplice 'Lily' in the Beach House

'Lily' Lovingly Caressing the Stolen Box

'Lily' Shooting and Murdering Dr. Soberin

'Lily' About to Open the Box, When Hammer Burst In

Lily to Hammer in the Beach House: "Come in. Kiss me, Mike" Before Shooting Him in the Mid-Section


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