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USA, 1955 (MIFF 1998, Kiss Me Deadly)

Director: Robert Aldrich

A night-time encounter with Cloris Leachman, clad only in a raincoat, leads Mike Hammer on a legality-be-damned search for a mysterious suitcase containing 'the Great What's-lt' in this stunning, rule-breaking adaptation of the Mickey Spillane pulp.

Ralph Meeker makes an indelible mark as Mike Hammer, Spillane's new breed of private eye whose head is as thick as his hide. Unhampered by codes of honour, he makes his two-fisted way through a maze of mean streets, muggings and kiss-offs to the final apocalyptic vision of the femme fatale wreathed in avenging flames.

Aldrich's cult thriller was way ahead of its time in its brutal, nihilistic values and made a significant impression on a generation of filmmakers including one Quentin Tarantino as evidenced in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta opens a glowing suitcase.

The version screening as part of this spotlight is the previously unseen director's cut. Aldrich kept his own personal print which was not subject to the editing enforced by United Artists, the film's distributor. This version features a slightly different, and more satisfying, climax. - Paul Harris

'Kiss Me Deadly tracks the sleaziest private investigator in American movies through a nocturnal labyrinth to a white-hot vision of cosmic annihilation. From the perversely backward title crawl (outrageously accompanied by orgasmic heavy breathing) through the climactic explosion - eschewing straight exposition for a jarring succession of bizarre images, bravura sound matching and encoded riddles." - Village Voice

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