Director: Robert Aldrich
Year Released: 1955
Innovative crime saga that compensates for - in my mind - a rather muddled plotline with great visual flair and a less-than-sympathetic but still enthralling performance by Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer, the kind of sadist who thinks nothing of pimping out the woman that loves him to get information (most telling of all is his facial reaction when various women kiss him - his sexual energy is directed towards his work). The supporting roles are filled nicely: cinematic thug Jack Elam is plenty ominous as a heavy (like they say, it's all in the eyes) and Cloris Leachman is memorable in her first role as the spooky woman in the trench coat who starts off the destructive chain of events. I don't think it's quite as accomplished as Hawks' The Big Sleep - I consider that film to be the absolute apex of the genre - but it's still mandatory viewing.