Mickey Spillane's roughneck private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker giving what many regard as the best of all portrayals of the character) becomes involved in the hunt for a mysterious missing box, containing something of enormous value - "the great whatsit". Both the authorities and an assortment of vicious criminals are after it too.
Appearance and character -
Lily is a woman in her 20's, of average height, with short, straight and very
blonde hair. In the film she wears at various times a dressing gown, a light raincoat, and a skirt with a jacket. Initially, Lily is posing as someone else, supposedly an innocent party caught up in dangerous business. Lily often has the manner of a slightly flaky adolescent, which doesn't seem to be all assumed for the deceptive role she's playing in the early scenes. When her true identity and character are later revealed, it's clear she's one of the most black hearted, deadly female villains ever put on screen. Other people are just objects (the defining trait in a psychopath) to Lily, to be terminally disposed of when inconvenient. She commits characteristic murderous treachery when she kills Dr Soberin in order to get "the great whatsit" all for herself. She kills people easily, with no ethical concerns whatever evident. She smirks after she's done it. In the last scene in which she appears, we see she's more than just a greedy, callous killer, very pleased with herself, she's also a sadist.
Gaby Rodgers, mainly a stage actress, who made only 1 other movie, gives a quirky, off center performance as Lily - a character who seems a world away from the usual predatory, hard boiled, high maintanence, worldly film noir "femme fatale"; but Lily's gamin appearance and needy manner are just a disarming surface below which lurks a twisted, totally evil personality. With stark camera closeups on her face, Lily's warped, taunting, triumphant, gleeful sadism in her final confrontation with Hammer, where sex and death are being implicitly equated, is one of the most disturbing and chilling moments on film.
She uses a revolver handgun.
Rarely has a villainess met such an appropriately painful and gristly (and graphically portrayed considering the film was made in the 1950's) end as Lily Carver in "Kiss me deadly". After cold bloodedly gunning down her lover and partner, Dr Soberin, and detective Hammer (who is later seen to be just wounded), Lily can't, like Pandora, resist opening "The great Whatsit" box to find out what's in it which is of such great value. Probably expecting jewels or similar, instead she finds the box actually contains crackling white hot nuclear material; a horrified Lily only discovers this too late, and she's soon being burnt alive, becoming a flaming torch which will soon engulf the whole building in an inferno.
Gaby Rodgers was long married to the late Jerry Leiber of the top songwriting team "Leiber and Stoller" (Elvis, the Coasters etc).
Rodgers, Cloris Leachman (Christina Bailey), and Marian Carr (Friday) are the only surviving members of the film's main cast at this date.