Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MY GUN IS QUICK

Legendary mystery writer Mickey Spillane's greatest creation - hardboiled private eye Mike Hammer - not only headlined more than a dozen violent, sexy novels, but also five feature films and several television series. Probably the least of these - and for many years, the rarest - is the 1957 Victor Saville production of MY GUN IS QUICK. Now, thanks to the MGM Limited Edition Collection, this low-budget B-noir has made it to home video for the first time.

Los Angeles P.I. Mike Hammer (Robert Bray, of the LASSIE television series), just off a long, tough case, staggers into a diner for a cup of coffee and a sandwich before heading back to his office and luscious secretary, Velda (sexy Pamela Duncan, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS). He befriends a down-on her-luck prostitute called "Red," (the appealing Jan Chaney), and gives her some money for a bus ticket back to Nebraska. A few hours later, he's called to the office of homicide cop Pat Chambers (TV actor Booth Coleman), who tells him that the girl's been murdered. Hammer swears he'll find the girl's killer and in the course of his investigation, he finds that Red's death is tied in with a missing cache of stolen jewelry. Of course, he also meets a bevy of beautiful broads, battles a hook-handed tough, and engages in a few car chases, fistfights and gun battles - but that's all in a day's work for a tough private eye.

As a Spillane/Hammer fan since I was a teenager, I've wanted to see MY GUN IS QUICK for decades - despite its terrible reputation - but it's never been available on home video (as far as I can determine) and if it ever aired on television, I missed it. Now that I've seen it, I have to say that it's definitely not a good movie, but neither is it a particularly bad one. If anything, it's aggressively mediocre, with elementary camera work, generally poor performances, and a tired, predictable screenplay that eschews the vengeance-driven plot of the Spillane novel that shares its title, in favor of an unimaginative MALTESE FALCON retread.

Bray looks suitably tough, and throws a convincing right hook, but it seems like his idea of expressing Hammer's simmering, righteous anger is by shouting many of his lines at inappropriate moments. The rest of the time, he's just there, with no screen presence to speak of. The women are all beautiful, and there's some nice jazz interspersed throughout the score, but many of the sets look like they're from a 40s Poverty Row programmer, and the filmmaking itself is utterly devoid of style. Two directors are credited: Phil Victor (this was his only film), and George White (a veteran film editor with no other directorial credits). Not exactly the "A" team...and it shows. The movie is watchable - but that's about the best that can be said about it.

The MGM Limited Edition Collection MOD disc of MY GUN IS QUICK sports a surprisingly decent, B&W, roughly 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and Dolby 2.0 mono sound. The print is in surprisingly good shape, with the only blemishes being some ever-present but minor speckling, and a couple of "cigarette burn" reel change markers. The print looks its age, but there's no major damage or dirt, and the contrast is good. No extras are included.

MY GUN IS QUICK is a cheap-jack and predictable - but relatively painless - low budget programmer that's difficult to recommend to anyone other than die hard Spillane fans and B-movie buffs. As I'm both, I'm glad I have a copy in my library, but that's the completist in me.

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