ABSTRACT

In a key scene from Robert Aldrich's 1955 American science-fiction drama Kiss me Deadly, right before the grand finale, the private detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) breaks into a commercial art gallery, the fictional Mist's Gallery of Modern Art in Los Angeles. 1 He is looking for information about a complicated case involving multiple murders and an enigmatic box, the contents of which is said to be precious and dangerous. Hammer wants to interrogate the gallery owner, William Mist, whose apartment is located above the exhibition. It's night and Hammer walks furtively through the dimly lit galleries. His gaze (hence ours) focuses on the art on display, slowly moving through a room filled with works by Marino Marini, Afro Basaldella, Giorgio Morandi, Franco Gentilini, and Massimo Campigli (see Fig. 4.1). Hammer is so absorbed by the act of looking that he bumps into a coffee table, and the noise alerts the art dealer, Mr. Mist, who frantically swallows a mouthful of sleeping pills to avoid the detective's interrogation.