An old friend of a private detective is murdered. The detective, Mike Hammer, will make every effort to find out the killer. At each step he does, there is someone taking advantage of his ... See full summary »
Richard T. Heffron
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Legendary detective Mike Hammer has spent seven years in an alcoholic funk after the supposed death of his secretary, Velda. He is brought back to the land of the living by his old friendly enemy, police lieutenant Pat Chambers.
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It's nearly Christmas, but Mike Hammer is on the vengeance trail when Jack, his wartime buddy, is murdered. Hotheaded Hammer sets out to find the killer, working his way through an increasingly large pile of suspects (and corpses). Along the way, he meets a new love interest, psychologist Charlotte Manning, a treacherous Santa, a gangster named Kalecki, and two weird sisters, the Bellamy twins. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
Drink, Mr Hammer?
No, I'm not much of a champagne drinker, Doc I...
[she shows him the bottle]
Beer! Pat tell you about too?
No. Jack Williams did. He talked about you quite a lot.
That was while you were treating Myrna, isn't it?
Captain Chambers was asking about Myrna when he was here. He wanted to know how strong she was mentally, and whether there was any chance of her resorting to her old habits again
There's no chance of that happening, is there Doc?
Let's say, so far so good
I'll drink to...
[...] See more »
The private-eye thriller and film noir begin their final descent
In 1953, I, The Jury became the first of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series to hit the screen, but it takes its cues from movies of 1947, when the book hit the kiosks. The yuletide cards serving as scene dividers, the violence counterpointed to Christmas carols recall The Lady in the Lake, while the duplicitous female psychiatrist reprises Helen Walker's Dr. Lilith Ritter in Nightmare Alley (the final, fatal tryst comes from the even earlier Double Indemnity).
These echoes may have been attempts to invest Hammer with some respectability, linking him to the more subtle and textured characters of the 1940s. It's clear something had to be done with him, because Spillane went for raw sensation in a way that caused a sensation of its own. His private eye is uncouth, short-fused and randy but misogynist, bowing to no authority save his own (hence the title). Spillane luckily or shrewdly had as readers of his punch-drunk prose men who had survived overseas combat and were making up for lost time in the footloose, post-war prosperity; he gave them not just sex and violence but sex-and-violence.
So in one sense, Biff Elliott makes an ideal Hammer, closer to Spillane's lout than his (relatively) spruced-up successors Ralph Meeker and Robert Bray (plus Armand Assante, in the marginally better 1982 remake of this title). He comes across as a Dead End kid grown up with a license and a gun, slow-witted but fast with his fists and his trigger.
When his best friend, an insurance investigator and combat amputee, gets himself coldly killed, Hammer scours New York to avenge him. The urban locales bring out the talents of director of photography John Alton, who here tried his hand at the 3-D process (thus I, The Jury, along with Man in the Dark, The Glass Web and Second Chance, becomes one of the few noirs so filmed).
The shoot-from-the-hip action, however, rides roughshod over any intricacies of the plot. Characters Hammer encounters stay generic, with the exception of Peggie Castle as the shrink. The film's last scene is hers, not Elliott's, as she moves into a languorous striptease that comes to a quick finale. For better or worse, it's an emblematic image that showcases Spillane's coarsened sensibility, his fusion of brutality and eroticism, and spells an end to the more freighted ambiguity that was a hallmark of the noir cycle.
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