Ralph Meeker is, perhaps intentionally, rather dull as the churlish lothario of a P.I., Mike Hammer. The rest of the cast sparkles around him as he plows through his investigation into the death of a woman who flagged him down late at night on a stretch of highway – a fate he nearly shared with her.
The opening credits, scrolling down the screen as Hammer and his passenger speed down the dark highway, unbalances and unsettles the audience right at the start. The story’s MacGuffin or, as Hammer’s secretary/assistant/lover calls it, the whatsit, is oddly supernatural/super-scientific and reasserts that off-kilter feeling leading up to a conclusion which, while open to interpretation, feels tragic and hopeless.
Dames, they’ll do you in.