Mike Hammer

MY GUN IS QUICK (1957)

My Gun Is Quick

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.

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KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

Kiss Me Deadly Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer

This week at the Hardboiled Hangover, we’re taking a look at some films based on the books of Mickey Spillane – the prolific pulp maestro of sex and carnage. During his time on earth, Spillane (1918 – 2006) sold tens of millions of books, most notably his Mike Hammer series. A private detective who was fueled by rage and moral righteousness, Hammer was a misanthrope who preferred beating confessions out of riff raff rather than questioning them. Spillane put the hard back in hardboiled, with Mike Hammer as his literary tool for vengeance. He certainly wasn’t going for deep insights into the human condition. Mickey wrote to get paid and his books were all about instant gratification of the two-fisted sort.

In Harry Essex’s I, the Jury, Mike Hammer is a dim-witted, primitive goof who punches his way out of a whodunnit. The next film to feature the private dick stepped it up a notch, portraying Hammer as a crass neanderthal who not only uses his fists instead of wit, he’s a pure sadist. Despite having the meanest of mean bastards as a protagonist, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly is a landmark film of the classic noir period’s twilight years. It’s a satirical look at Mickey Spillane’s creation, while also miraculously blending hardboiled noir with apocalyptic science fiction. The mystery at the heart of the film unfurls against a violent maze of Red Scare paranoia and features one of the greatest MacGuffins of all time – one of white hot nuclear fire.

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I, THE JURY (1953)

I, the Jury

This week at the Hardboiled Hangover, we’re taking a look at some films based on the books of Mickey Spillane – the prolific pulp maestro of sex and carnage. During his time on earth, Spillane (1918 – 2006) sold tens of millions of books, most notably his Mike Hammer series. A private detective who was fueled by rage and moral righteousness, Hammer was a misanthrope who preferred beating confessions out of anyone rather than question them. Spillane put the hard back in hardboiled, with Mike Hammer as his literary tool for vengeance. He certainly wasn’t going for deep insights into the human condition. Mickey wrote to get paid and his books were all about instant gratification of the two-fisted sort.

I, the Jury (1947) was the first Mike Hammer novel published and the first film adaptation. The novel became quickly notorious for its final line, which has become one of the most infamous bits of dialogue in crime fiction history. Ask around, someone will tell you. I, The Jury the film was released in 1953, when cinema wasn’t nearly explicit enough for Spillane’s brand of pornographic justice. This toned down version of the book pretty much follows the same plot, which is a convoluted one that begins with a simple murder and leads to an international art black market, hypnosis, and lots and lots of fisticuffs.

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