Relying heavily on Stacy Keach's perfectly delivered narration, this first episode to Jay Bernstein's 1997 edition of the Mike Hammer TV series sets the stage adequately: no frills, but effective.
Story of a cop being killed and Hammer hunting for the culprit, amidst the NYC world of both traditional Mafia and newly-imported Russian Mafia control of the drug trade is unexceptional. It serves mainly as a springboard to introduce Shane Conrad in the title role as a future member of the team. Here he is at first highly antagonistic to Hammer, when interrogated about his (cop) father's death, but by episode's end has redeemed himself and been hired to work alongside Keach and his lovable secretary Velda.
I was a huge (#1??) fan of Shannon Whirry in the early 1990s, reviewing her many sexy videos, and even kept her wonderfully-voiced message to me on my answering machine for several years thereafter. It is nice seeing her perfectly cast as Velda, lending sweater girl and décolletage shots, and sad that this was perhaps her greatest mainstream assignment in an unsung career.
Also getting brief face time in the opener is Keach's real-life wife Malgosia Tomassi, looking very alluring as a yoga instructor neighbor of Hammer's; Kent Williams, bossy as ever as the deputy mayor; Peter Jason, stuck with the routine police captain assignment; and Ric Mancini, quite convincing in his recurring role as the mafia boss. Rebekah Chaney is introed briefly on an elevator as the elusive and forever mysterious ideal beauty The Face. I see in IMDb that she recently directed a well-received short film, but it is a shame that this uniquely exotic woman has never gotten a breakthrough film (or TV) role. Like Whirry, a familiar softcore sex video star of the '90s, Sherrie Rose, is the female guest star, in a nothing role as the prostitute.
Watching the collected series 13 years later it is apparent that it was shot by Kushner-Locke on an extremely low budget. There are no name guest stars and the sets are seriously under-dressed -often bare looking rooms, alley ways, or studio streets. For fans impressed today with the lavish location work of a Lost or Alias series, Mike Hammer looks way too chintzy, just as the wonderful series of the '50s and '60s (try the early seasons of The Avengers for such a revelation) are underdone by today's standards. But solid acting, and Keach's unmatched self-assurance in the role, win the day.
Only oddity for this first episode is the absence of a writing credit. IMDb reveals who wrote the teleplay, but he is not credited on screen or on the otherwise comprehensive DVD notes.
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