Robert Aldrich was a contemporary of Orson Welles – whose Touch of Evil I watched very recently – and the two directors are quite a contrast. Aldrich churned out stuff that was fairly pedestrian compared to Welles, but he touched artistic genius more than once, perhaps the first time with Kiss Me Deadly. The film has two unforgettable moments: the opening shot, and The Box – the best low-tech sci-fi effect I ever hope to see. First, the opening of the film: it starts with unshod feet, running down the middle of a highway – before the credits before anything else – just feet and naked legs and a road in the dark. Wonderful stuff!
The film then devolves into a solidly made Mike Hammer noir – not bad, but nothing to write home about. Until, very late in the movie, Hammer finally finds the mysterious object everyone is looking for – and killing to get: The Box. What is in it? Mike touches it…it’s hot!…he opens it…whatever is in it glows! and the slightest exposure to the light blisters his wrist! The movie seems to jettison the hard-boiled-detective genre and launches into The Twilight Zone, orbiting around The Box. The last few minutes of the film are stunning.
I’ll bet the glowing box in Pulp Fiction was inspired by The Box, but it can’t hold a candle to this one.