This is the 1955 film with Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer. Apparently the screenwriter did not like the book at all and came up with a whole new plot. Also he moved Hammer from his traditional New York setting to Los Angeles. (Did the screenwriter hate New York? Or did he just want to dislike the book so much that he even wanted to change the setting?)
Hammer is investigating the death of a woman that he picked up on the road and trying to find a mysterious item. He is harsh and thuggish, more of an anti-hero than a hero. Meeker is really good in the role. I was used to Stacy Keach as Hammer from the old tv series but Meeker is good. Meeker’s Hammer is less clever and more cruel than Keach’s.
The ending of the movie is interesting. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you have heard of the film, you might have heard that the ending was changed. The movie (on this DVD) features the original ending. (The atlerted ending is available as a bonus feature.)
The dvd, from the criterion collection includes some nice bonus features. One is the documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane by author/film Max Allen Collins. This is really good, it was made before Spillane died and features interviews with him, Keach, and other mystery writers. It actually has one writer who did not think much of Spillane commenting, which was a bit surprising. I am tempted to say this is almost worth the price of purchase by itself.
Another bonus feature is an except from a documentary about the screenwriter of Kiss Me Deadly. This is where I learned how different the movie was from Spillane’s novel. Spillane did not like the film and wondered why so much was changed. The screen writer A. I. Bezzerides admitted that he hated Spillane’s novel.