The weirdest and best of the many adaptations of Mickey Spillane's tales of the ass-kicking P.I. Mike Hammer, Robert Aldrich's 1955 film takes a sharp right turn from its source, plunging it into a bizarre world of Cold War paranoia and nuclear fears. Ralph Meeker, who spent most of his career wandering through small parts in big films (Paths of Glory, The Dirty Dozen, several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents), takes on the role of Hammer, whose encounter with a comely hitchhiker (a young Cloris Leachman) leads to the pursuit of "the great whatsit," a briefcase with glowing, apocalyptic contents. The final sequence is a stunner that's been famously quoted in both Pulp Fiction and Repo Man. Screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides, who co-created TV's The Big Valley, recalled that Spillane wasn't thrilled with his changes to the story, but it's by far the most memorable of the Mike Hammer adaptations, with a tension and an exaggerated universe of dangers that has influenced countless films and TV series since. Film writer Lewis Beale provides an introduction.