Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart
Director: Robert Aldrich
Secret agents, torture, a femme fatale, and a mysterious brief case. This film has it all. In some senses it’s a rather hysterical film about the threat of nuclear war, in another it’s one of the finest film noir flicks to grace the screen. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.
Mike Hammer (Meeker) is a private detective who picks up a desperate girl one night who is wearing nothing but a trench coat, who draws him into a game of cat and mouse involving a brief case that glows when opened, a mysterious and deadly weapon that the bad guys (which appears to be nearly everyone) would do anything to get their hands on.
It’s A Must See Because: Meeker is a bit of an anti hero, with his bullying ways, not afraid to get his hands dirty. But the scenes in which a woman is tortured off screen, implying some really ugly violence, show that the bad guys are way, way more scary.
It’s an odd film to watch now, since the threat of nuclear way doesn’t hang over us in the way that it did in the 50’s, being at the forefront of peoples minds then. But for me, that’s part of what makes it so interesting. It’s very much of it’s time, and also gives us a glimpse into the concerns of the day. It’s also remarkable how much goes on in this film, especially the violent aspects, since I always get the impression that the 50’s was such a Happy Days era of post-war sweetness, and home and family values. Perhaps even at the time, people could see through the falsity of some of that saccharine attitude to life.
It’s also a fascinating mystery, with some great twists and turns, and the shadowy visuals and styling that Film Noir lovers like myself enjoy so much.
See It If: you ever wanted to know what was in the briefcase in that Tarantino film… Classic film noir heavy in 50’s nuclear war concerns.