Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Noirsville Bonus - Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Noir TV (Part One)

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (79 episodes, 1958-1959) starring Darren McGavin. This is the first TV series based on Mike Hammer. A TV Hammer movie starring Brian Keith aired in 1955. McGavin's Hammer has a pretty confrontational attitude, though it's a tongue-in-cheek Hammer, he's quick with his fists and his gun. Some of the episodes are quite Noirish. Its set reasonably within the right time frame parameters for Hammer (this is the late fifties), most of its establishing and location shots are Manhattan and the other Boroughs, though some exteriors and all the interiors were shot at Universal and Republic studios. These are in the Noir subcategory I like to call "Tail Fin" Noirs, for the very noticeable automobile styling element that dominates all the exterior sequences.

There's a few caveats however, its TV, it has a code just like the MPPC of Hollywood, the Hammer-tomically correct broads aren't going do much more than tease and forget about strip.
Another is that it's not Hammer neat. McGavin's Hammer as written is part Spillane's Hammer and part Kane's Johnny Liddle, Manhattan detective novels. This is a low rent Hammer who apparently has rooms at the Parkmore (residence) Hotel. The series is set in close to the correct time period for the first seven Spillane Hammer novels

More caveats are Runtime: 30 minutes, minus commercials and end credits, intro is short and within a minute you are into the story. The end credits have all the info running about 2 minutes the  episodes are probably actually around 26-7 minutes long. Aside from Hammer (McGavin), Pat Chambers (Bart Burns in 21 of 79 episodes), and coke bottle glasses wearing, candy store owner Geta (Vitto Scotti 7 episodes) there are not a whole lot of returning characters or (much character development over the span of the episodes.

Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin)
Positives are McGavin is a good Hammer/Liddlle composite, though it is Spillane's character, this Hammer, does not have any over the top Gov/Commie story-lines or character rants that Spillane seemed to gravitate towards after I, The Jury was written. Frank Kane created the Manhattan based private eye Johnny Liddell. The teleplay writers had thirty books and countless short stories for reference and  Kane himself is credited with 23 episodes during the run. This may account for the realistic small realistic type cases feel of the show. There is no Velda, though she is mentioned a couple of times in the second episode.

For the short run times the stories move along with great economy and good use of McGavin's first person narration to bridge the set pieces. The NYC on location sequences feature McGavin walking the streets,  driving his 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible around Manhattan, or hopping in taxis these give the show a nice Neo Realist feel.

All the babes are hammer-tomically correct. Occasionally there is some episodes with Noir-ish lighting and Dutch angels used. The majority of the sets have a nice sleazy look complimenting the stories. Lots of action, the episodes either feature fisticuffs (McGavin held a black belt in traditional Japanese karate). I've read that the show was notable for him doing many of his own stunts and for the "enthusiasm" he put into some of the fight scenes, sometimes forgetting to pull his punches and "ad-libbing" moves. Iy was also known for a lot of sudden and quick blazing gun fights in cramped quarters with the bad guys ending up dead. It has decent theme music, "Rift Blues."

Season One - Disc One

  1. The High Cost of Dying - A convict at Sing Sing is mortally stabbed. He wants Hammer to dig up the loot he stole and ransom his wife. 

    Tappan Zee and Sing Sing

    It's a con cooked up by the man's wife to get the stash. Directed by Lawrence Dobkin, written by Steven Thornley, DOP Jack Mackenzie, Straight Crime 6/10
  2. Just Around the Coroner - A fellow neighbor at the residence hotel inherits 7,500 dollars and every two bit con artist, mooch, and hooker wants to score off him, This one features a brutal murder and a badger game extortion scheme.
    On the Hollywood set rather than NYC

    Hammer-tomically correct babe

    The Badger Game is perpetrated on married men, in which the victim or "mark" is tricked into a compromising position to make him vulnerable to blackmail. Another is the Pigeon drop  a confidence trick in which a mark or "pigeon" is persuaded to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money, or more valuable object. Directed by Richard Irving written by Lawrence Kimble, DOP William Bradford. Sleazy sets, nice babe. Straight Crime 8/10.
  3. Hot Hands, Cold Dice - After Willie the Squeaker fingers Mike to a couple of Goons from Vegas, Mike returns to his office to find it tossed.

    Hammer-tomically correct
    While he's picking up papers the phone rings and a voice tells him to drop his client Sharon O'Closky. Next he gets a call from Sharon telling him that she scared and needs his help. Mike has never heard of her before this.

    He goes to see her, get slipped a "mickey" and wakes up in Vegas. Sharon tells him he agreed to help her find her father. 
    tail fins
    Directed by Boris Sagal, written by Lawrence Kimble, DOP Jack Mackenzie. Straight Crime with with some very entertaining sequences, nice "hammer-tomically correct" babe, and a touch of noir during the drugging sequence 8/10.
  4. Death Gets A Diploma - An old friend of Mike asks him to investigate her son's involvement with a dame who just happened to finger a mobster for a whack out side The Goldfish Bowl night club.

  5. Directed by Richard Irving written by Rik Vollaerts and Frank Kane, DOP Jack Mackenzie. This one has "hammer-tomically correct" babe a mix of Hollywood and NYC footage, and has some noir-ish sequences. Straight Crime 7/10.
  6.  So That's Who It Was - Chinatown, a seedy residence hotel. Mike investigates the bump off a stew bum/junkie he knows.

    undercover Hammer

    another babe

    Wong (Keye Luke) and Hammer

    another babe

    Pat Chambers (Bart Burns)
    Mike knows the police wont strain themselves over this one and starts poking around on his own. Directed by John English, written by James  Gunn, Fenton Earnshaw, from a story by Curt Cannon, DOP Jack Mackenzie with Anna May Wong (Impact 1949) and Keye Luke Hell's Half Acre (1954). The first really stylistically noir episode. Crime Noir 8/10.
  7. Dead Men Don't Dream -  Goons muscling for a protection racket murder a boyhood buddy. Lower East Side/Manhattan location shots.

    Notice the TV aerial sticking out of a window to lt. 

    tail fins

    Hammer-tommicaly correct

    Old West Side Drive and the United States Lines Pier

    Cobblestone Streets
    Directed by Joe Parker, Written by Frank Kane story by Curt Cannon, DOP Jack Mackenzie. Straight Crime. 8/10
  8. Letter Edged in Blackmail - A blackmailing scheme goes foul. Wet city streets and lots of Manhattan location shots. 

    Tail fins

    Angie Dickinson lt. 

    foolin' around

    Noir-ish videography, a young, voluptous, hammer-tomically correct Angie Dickinson, it can't go wrong. Director Boris Sagal, writter Frank Kane, DOP Jack Mackenzie. Crime Noir 9/10.

1 comment:

  1. I really want to see the show. I have it in my Amazon cart, but it's quite expensive. Damn.