Tuesday, July 25, 2006

THE GIRL HUNTERS

The character of Mickey Spillane's tough-guy private eye, Mike Hammer, had already been the subject of three feature films by 1963 (including 1955’s classic KISS ME DEADLY, directed by Robert Aldrich), but Spillane had never been satisfied with his famous shamus’ portrayal. In THE GIRL HUNTERS, directed by Roy Rowland, Spillane decided to take on the Hammer role himself and show Hollywood how it should be done.

Based on the first Mike Hammer book in seven years, THE GIRL HUNTERS begins with Mike Hammer lying drunk in an alley and his beloved secretary, Velda, presumed dead. But when Hammer discovers from a dying FBI agent that his girl Friday is not only still alive, but the target of a Communist assassin code named The Dragon, he pulls himself out of the gutter, slaps on the trenchcoat and porkpie hat, and dusts off his .45 automatic, ready to play St. George.

Plagued by a repetitive, annoying musical score and a somewhat over-talky screenplay by Spillane himself, THE GIRL HUNTERS is still a decent, if low budget, private eye movie, packed with Cold War paranoia and a powerful last act. Spillane is surprisingly good as Hammer, handling his dialogue – and his love scenes – with natural confidence. Shirley Eaton (GOLDFINGER, THE GIRL FROM RIO) is an effective femme fatale who looks great in a bikini, and veteran character actor Lloyd Nolan (who’d played P.I. Michael Shayne in a series of 40’s films) is great as Hammer’s FBI ally.

Image Entertainment’s DVD came out early in the DVD era, and is a bare-bones affair that includes no bonus features whatsoever, but at least presents the movie in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

THE GIRL HUNTERS disc can be hard to find these days, but is well-worth tracking down if you're a Hammer – or Spillane – fan.

BUY: The Girl Hunters