It would be a severe understatement to say that Robert Aldrich was a bit of a maverick. As well as making some extraordinary cinema the American director was entirely skilled at getting on the wrong side of studios. He was a prolific risk taker and didn’t care who he pissed-off in the process. Aldrich was a great populist and ensured that you were left in no doubt whatsoever about his personal feelings. He went through Colombia, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros, had a spell in Europe before founding his own studio. Kiss Me Deadly is one of his earlier films, made independently, and is also one of his boldest.

Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is a warts and all tough guy LA gumshoe who gives as good as he gets and is handy with his fists. Along with his secretary and lover Velda (Maxine Cooper) his usual bag is divorce cases. Whilst driving down a country road one night he picks up Christina (Cloris Leachman), an attractive hitchhiker. When he discovers she’s escaped from a mental asylum he gets a lot more than he bargained for.

Kiss Me Deadly is a white-knuckle film noir which takes no prisoners and continually throws you off the scent. It’s breathtakingly risqué and unorthodox. The famous suitcase went on to inspire many directors but the entire idea of doing that in 1955 is outlandish, to say the least. Kiss Me Deadly is a hard-boiled murder mystery, a sci-fi crime drama and an absolute celluloid gem. The kind of films which takes your breath away and makes you grateful for independent cinema.  

Special edition features:

  • New high-definition restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
  • New video tribute from director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Walker)
  • Excerpts from The Long Haul of A. I. Bezzerides, a 2005 documentary on the Kiss Me Deadly screenwriter
  • Excerpts from Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, a 1998 documentary on the author whose book inspired the film
  • A look at the film’s locations
  • Altered ending
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman and a 1955 reprint by director Robert Aldrich

Kiss Me Deadly is released on Blu-ray by Criterion UK on 5 August.