MGM // 1957 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // June 30th, 2011
"I just crawled out of a sewer. Not a decent person left in the world." -Mike Hammer
That's a metaphorical sewer, even if Robert Bray's version of Mike Hammer kinda looks that shabby when we first meet him (he's got an electric razor in his office). My Gun is Quick brought one of Mickey Spillane's novels to the big screen.
Mike Hammer buys a broke wannabe starlet a bowl of soup in a hash joint and ends up beating a guy up for her right away. Hammer talks the woman he knows only as "Red" into going back to Nebraska and gives her his name and address so she can write him when she gets there. The police find Hammer's info on Red's body, but they don't find the ring Hammer saw on her hand. The missing ring provides the clue which sends Hammer out to avenge her murder.
Even with two directors, Phil Victor and George White, sharing duties, they do a decent job of bringing Mike Hammer to a 1950s movie audience. The opening scene, with the shabby Hammer decrying humanity while taking a troubled woman under his wing, defending her against attack almost reflexively, and barking at secretary Velda in a phone call sets up both Hammer's toughness and his moral code right away, so you'll be willing to assume anything that they couldn't show you back then. Later, there's a striptease show that doesn't show much but still manages to steam up the screen and some very good but not overdone makeup jobs on the various wounds.
My favorite scene silently shows Hammer's emotions as he realizes who's behind the murders. He's watching the activity -- police and otherwise -- at a crime scene from overhead. The lack of any dialogue or narration forces you to pay attention to everything that's going on.
Robert Bray (Lassie) manages to keep you thinking of the tough slob you met in the opening scene throughout, even as the movie pulls back a little on the intensity. The most notable supporting cast member is Gina Core (Underwater Warrior) as Maria, the ecdysiast who helps Hammer with his inquiries; she's able to go toe-to-toe with Bray on the double entendres without the tendency to overact that other actors show at times.
You'll get to see a lot of Los Angeles in the 1950s. My Gun is Quick goes through a lot of backdrops, all interesting to the eye. The black-and-white transfer is good but not spectacular, with occasional flecks or flaws. Sound quality is good, too.
I was disappointed to hear a pounding, more insistent jazz number instead of "Harlem Nocturne," the jazz radio standard that I associate with Mike Hammer.
While it's nice that My Gun is Quick was brought out at all, collectors will wish that there'd been a better treatment. While it's a decent print, there aren't any extras, and there's a capper: the DVD back cover just looks cheap and amateurish.
Even with a lot of noirish touches, My Gun is Quick is a mystery at its core, and chances are you'll figure out whodunnit rather quickly, since just keeping track of who's not dead is enough of a clue. For viewers who aren't Mike Hammer fans, it could get slow real quick after you solve the case.
The limited release probably won't expand Mike Hammer's appeal beyond existing fans, but My Gun is Quick isn't a bad adaptation. Newbies will still want to track down a novel for their introduction to Hammer, though.
Review content copyright © 2011 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated