The third film to be based on a Mickey Spillane novel is My Gun Is Quick. Released two years after the mighty Kiss Me Deadly, My Gun Is Quick is a trim, completely comfortable noir that features my favorite depiction of Mike Hammer (although diehard Spillane fans would probably choke me out for saying that). It’s not a great caper, however, as it’s crippled by a dreadful pace and the disjointed unevenness that comes from being directed by two different filmmakers.
In a L.A. hash joint the size of a broom closet, Mike Hammer (Robert Bray) befriends Red, a young hooker hoping to save enough scratch to move back to Nebraska. Mike takes pity on the poor tramp and when a thug barges in and tries to force her out, Mike delivers a combo that lays him out quick. Before parting ways, Mike gives Red some cash for the bus back home, as well as his contact info so she can drop him a line when she arrives. On her way out of the diner, Mike notices a gaudy ring on Red’s finger – one with enough shine to blind a donkey.
Mike returns to his office where a message from the police captain is awaiting him. Turns out Red was killed in a hit and run shortly after leaving the bar, and among her belongings was Mike’s number. But guess what was missing from her body? You betcha, that goddamn ring. Mike follows the trail of the missing ring into a convoluted conspiracy of French jewels stolen during the war, hook-handed sailers, murderous butlers, and sea-loving dames.
Just like the Mike Hammers in I, the Jury and Kiss Me Deadly, My Gun Is Quick‘s Mike doesn’t really solve a mystery. Instead, he stumbles through the case – kicking ass, getting his ass kicked, and throwing out misogynistic quips at every chance. His first line of dialogue in the film is when he tells his secretary Velda, “Off my back, chick! I’m tired.” Robert Bray is a bit different than the two previous incarnations of Mike Hammer, however. He’s much less like a cartoon brute and more goodhearted – to an extent. He’s grizzled and can still be a prick (especially towards women), but overall he’s a much more toned down private dick. Call him “unrefined hardboiled” if that helps. Spillane devotees will probably dislike this depiction of Hammer though. He’s a little too willing to cooperate with the police in order to deliver justice, rather than simply shoot them in the belly.
A primo example of how Bray’s Hammer difference is his reason for looking into the death of Red. The scenario kicks off much like Mike’s predicament in Kiss Me Deadly: the woman he meets the night before is found dead and Mike unofficially takes up the case. Now in Kiss Me Deadly, Ralph Meeker’s Hammer starts sniffing out the hoods who offed the dame because they tried to snuff him out at the same time. His motivation is essentially revenge. In My Gun Is Quick, Bray’s Hammer starts pounding the pavement in search of Red’s killer because he gives a shit about her. When he met her, there was a connection. She shows Mike her ratty, worn-out shoes and his heart actually reaches out to her. That’s why he gives her some cash to leave the prostitution racket behind. And when she makes the move to kiss him goodbye, he gives her the cheek. Ralph Meeker’s Hammer would’ve mashed his face into hers and gotten her pregnant.
My Gun Is Quick is credited to co-directors Phil Victor and George White. The latter was a seasoned editor who cut films like The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and The Naked Spur (1953). This is his only directing credit. Coincidentally enough, this is Phil Victor’s only directing credit as well. It’s his ONLY credit on IMDB actually. Who the hell was this guy? Phil Victor was actually a pseudonym for producer Victor Saville, who adapted four Spillane films but hated this film so much it’s left off his filmography. It was part of Spillane’s contract that My Gun Is Quick be adapted, so Saville seems to have dumped this one out without too much care.
There’s a theory that My Gun Is Quick started off as a one hour TV pilot, with White directing the hour and Saville coming in to cushion it out to a feature length. It makes sense, but another credible theory is that White was delivering shitty dailies, so Saville took over to save the film.
My Gun Is Quick certainly feels like it was helmed by two directors with two visions for Mike Hammer. The film see-saws between decent set-pieces and miserable paced scenes. At one point, Mike follows the butler in his car for about five minutes. It’s not a car chase and doesn’t feel like a tail job. It’s seriously just Mike driving behind this guy at a steady pace for five minutes. It’s excruciating. There are some great scenes between Mike and Red’s nightclub singer friend, who can match wits and grit with the P.I. Those moments last for only a short time, unfortunately, and Mike spends most of his time with Whitney Blake, who plays a spoiled socialite that plays Mike like a fiddle.
Hardcore fans of Spillane might be turned off by Bray’s softer depiction of Mike Hammer, but if you can sit through the dull moments, My Gun Is Quick makes for an enjoyable little noir. It’s available now on Netflix Watch Instantly, so check it out while you have the chance.