Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer! What’s not to like? This is actually the 5th time Hammer was made into a film. As a child of the 1980’s, Mike Hammer has always been Stacy Keach, but this classic version of him by Ralph Meeker is pretty great. I have not read any of the books, but after watching this I will have a few on my “To Read” list. This film is directed by Robert Aldrich, he also produced and had complete control over the production and had nobody to answer to. This freed him up to do some new things, you will see this in some interesting angles and shots throughout the film. All these years later and they still feel different and fresh.
If you are unaware of Mike Hammer, Ben Mankiewicz put it this way: This is a Mike Hammer mystery, it is different then a Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade mystery. Where they use their smarts, Mike Hammer uses brute force, His last name Hammer is appropriate. I am paraphrasing Ben, but you get the idea.
The plot of this is very strange and hard to follow. I think Hammer’s secretary, Velda, played by Maxine Cooper, put it best. ” First, you find a little thread, the little thread leads you to a string, and the string leads you to a rope, and from the rope you hang by the neck.” That quote pretty much sums up the plot of this.
This film starts out with Hammer driving his convertible along a lonely road and picks up a girl in distress. They get through a police road block and soon Hammer finds himself knocked unconscious and the girl is basically tortured to death. The unknown assailants put both of them in Hammer’s car and roll them off a cliff. Miraculously Hammer survives the crash and spends 3 days in the hospital. Back at his office he starts an investigation into why they killed the unknown girl and who she was. We get one name which leads to a different name that leads to a different name.
This is a fun ride, even if we don’t always know where we are going. This also has one of the most unusual endings of any classic film noir. I think this movie is like Hammer himself, don’t over think it and just use brute force to get through this film and enjoy the journey.
This is a fun, good, classic film noir who everybody should see. It has some twists and turns, but they don’t shock as much as some other noir. This may be because we can’t see around those turns to see the twists coming like we are used to.
Favorite Tidbit: I found this brief case had more than a passing resemblance to the one in Pulp Fiction and I wasn’t the only one. When asked if this was an influence, Quentin Tarantino says the similarities between his brief case and this one are accidental, but he liked this theory.