Sunday, August 5, 2012

After Thoughts...Kiss Me Deadly [1955] (no spoilers)


Few times in my movie-viewing ventures have I come across a name so apt to a character's persona than with Mike Hammer.  Sure, Iceman and Maverick go without saying, but nicknames don’t count.  When a name is given in response to someone's attributes, that's too easy.  The name Hammer is no nickname, but rather a surname passed down through generations that was bestowed upon this man after a long line of men before him- maybe not, but I surely like to think it was this dramatic.  And if this was a real story and Mike Hammer was actually a real person, conceived of flesh in our world, the above statements would actually matter some, but given the fact that Mike Hammer and his entire surrounding existence was built through a means of creative fiction, none of that really matters.  However, in my experience watching Kiss Me Deadly, I could not get the idea out of my head.  And the more I watched, the more it was true.  Mike Hammer is Mike Hammer

Classic noir detectives like Philip Marlowe (The BigSleep) and Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon) would be in for a rude awakening if Mike Hammer ever joined their department.  A burly dude to say the least, Mike Hammer probably invented the knock-heads-first-then-ask-question approach to interrogation.  Messy and slightly unprofessional, but it works nonetheless.  If only he and Harry Callahan were born of the same universe, the streets of San Francisco would have been clean in no time, not to mention we would have had a terrific motion picture on our hands.

Dirty Harry with his .44 magnum side kick and “Do I feel lucky?” staple is a terrifically fearing and bad ass cop.  Mike Hammer is not. He is bouldering and clumsy.  At one point, he finds a way to combat a switchblade using a bag of popcorn.  I definitely would not call that bad ass, or even cool, but it works nonetheless.  For the most part though, the Hammer just relies on his fists and gets the job done fine.  Like all noir-set detectives, or any detective for that matter, their job calls for dealing with the most unpleasant and ruthless criminals on a daily basis.  Brain or brawn as the old saying goes, and Mike Hammer made his decision.

Beyond just the hefty physique and whack-a-mole crime fighting, there was additional evidence that affirmed the Hammer to be the Hammer.  It is not chance that a man with the name Mike Hammer would cruise around solving mysteries in a shiny convertible or be good friends with a trainer and hang out at boxing clubs? Of course not. And when I happened to come upon his preference of a glass of milk over a scotch or Philip Marlowe’s personal favorite, Bourbon, I was not at all surprised. 

Mike Hammer and Kiss Me Deadly are rarely ever discussed alongside legendary noir greats like The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, and that is a crime in and of itself.  Mike Hammer was one hell of a cop and a pretty big meathead too.

Side note: In relation to this rant, I think its worth pointing out a man by the name of Fred Williamson, a former NFL linebacker from the 1970s with the nickname the hammer.  The following excerpt is fom his Wikipedia page:
nurturing the nickname "The Hammer" because he used his forearm to deliver karate-style blows to the heads of opposing players, especially pass receivers.  Before Super Bowl I, Williamson gathered national headlines by boasting that he would knock the Green Bay Packers starting receivers, Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler, out of the game. He stated "Two hammers to (Boyd) Dowler, one to (Carroll) Dale should be enough".

If  Mike Hammer were ever a football player he’d definitely be this guy.


  1. Dirty Harry is badass, I have a theory that Clint may have partly based the character on his 'man with no name' performance from western The good, the bad, and the ugly (1966) Though I haven't seen the entire Eastwood 'Dollars trilogy' yet

    1. Interesting theory,I can definitely see that. But like you, I haven't seen the rest of the trilogy.