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Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: The Complete Series
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New York City. 1958. In these concrete canyons, everybody's got an angle: The beauty with the sob story who killed her old man. The harmless geezer who's in bed with the mob. The kidnapped broad who's really a fraud. When a case gets too twisted for the cops, only one man can straighten it out: two-fisted gumshoe Mike Hammer.
Created by legendary crime novelist Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer was brought to television for the first time in 1958, with Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, A Christmas Story) as the hardboiled private eye. Pummeled for its "excessive and gratuitous violence" (by 1950's standards), the show was, nevertheless, instantly successful - thanks, in part, to McGavin's tongue-in-cheek charm.
Here for the first time on DVD is the complete 78-episode run of the groundbreaking series MICKEY SPILLANE'S MIKE HAMMER, featuring the original jazz theme, Riff Blues and an unforgettable cast of conmen, crooks, killers and femmes fatale played by such notables as Angie Dickinson, Ted Knight, Barbara Bain, Marion Ross, Dick Van Patten and Robert Vaughn.
ALL 78 EPISODES ON 12 DISCS
Crime novelist Mickey Spillane's hard-boiled alter ego, private eye Mike Hammer, made his television debut in this syndicated action series, which ran from 1957 to 1959 and featured TV favorite Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) as Hammer. The format is strictly by the books: Hammer takes a case that is sorted out by the 24-minute mark by a combination of fast talk and fists, with a liberal application of .38-caliber punctuation. Bart Burns is on hand as police lieutenant Pat Chambers, who provides Hammer with sage advice and admonishments against going too far in his pursuit of justice, and the guest cast of good guys, heels, and dames is filled out by familiar TV faces, including Angie Dickinson, Robert Vaughn, Mike Connors, Lorne Greene, and DeForest Kelly. McGavin's turn as Hammer is appropriately tough when the chips are down, but for the most part, he's an amiable sort, sweet with the ladies and balancing a tone that falls somewhere between world-weary and tongue-in-cheek (which was reportedly McGavin's idea, and ran contrary to the producers' wishes). He hews a lot closer to Stacy Keach's TV interpretation, or even McGavin's later, iconic turn as Kolchak (who also had a way with a voice-over), than the brutal avenger of Spillane's novels. If you're looking for that version, stick with Ralph Meeker, the best screen Hammer, in Robert Aldrich's harrowing Kiss Me Deadly (1955), but if it's a nostalgic dose of '50s TV detective fare you're after, McGavin's Mike Hammer has the goods. The A&E set features all 78 episodes of the series' two-season run, with no extras; image quality, as an onscreen disclaimer notes, is decent but not crystal clear, and there are no extras. --Paul Gaita
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He was smooth, smart and sophisticated.
At the other end of the P.I. spectrum was Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Not smooth, he was street smart and preferred a cold beer to champagne. He was rough around the edges when it came to dealing with women and rougher still when it came to dealing with bad guys. He could - and often did - throw a punch and he wasn't afraid to take a shot at someone.
In short, he was a tough guy and Darren McGavin - who would later be famous for his ability to play comic characters - wouldn't have been my first choice to play the detective. Thankfully, I wasn't making the casting decisions back then because McGavin was very effective playing the hard-boiled detective. He had the right blend of New York City swagger and Big Apple intensity to bring Spillane's creation to life on the small screen.
This collection of his adventures on the mean streets reminds me that a good writer can tell a great story even with minimal sets, a bevy of mostly unknown actors and absolutely no special effects.
Well worth the money.