Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Girl Hunters


Authors are often identified with their characters, especially writers of first person detective characters, and perhaps none more so than the late Mickey Spillane. If you're old enough to remember a series of Miller Lite Beer commercials from the 1980s, then you saw Spillane playing a cross between a lampoon of himself and his signature character Mike Hammer many times. He also appeared as Hammer on the occasional book cover, on one record album, and as another mixed version of himself and Hammer in the nifty movie Ring of Fear, which I reviewed a while back.
However Spillane's most extensive outing as Hammer was in the 1963 adaptation of the Mike Hammer novel, The Girl Hunters. In this one, Mickey Spillane IS Mike Hammer. I used to own this film on VHS, but that copy is long gone. Amazon.com shows the DVD as out of print and fairly expensive in the aftermarket. But, the entire movie is available for free on Youtube. Not a great copy, but certainly watchable.
I was doing a search on Spillane at Youtube last night, watching interviews and some of the aforementioned Miller Lite commercials, and that led me to a link for the full movie of The Girl Hunters. Not having seen it in a decade or so, I decided to watch it on the spot. Really enjoyed it. Nor surprisingly, since Spillane reportedly did some of the writing on the script, and since he's the star, The Girl Hunters is a better than average adaptation of the novel. Since I've spent a lot of time, recently, lamenting over the lack of adherence to the source material in the upcoming Conan movie, you can probably imagine that I'm pleased to see a movie that follows a book closely.
The plot is perhaps not Spillane's best, and the movie suffers from a low budget, but really, who cares? It's Mickey Spillane stalking around the screen as Mike Hammer! I've heard Spillane's acting in this one referred to as stilted, but I think his unstudied, genuine performance works well for Hammer. And Spillane can say those hardboiled lines that he wrote and not sound silly. Not as easy as it looks.
The supporting cast is very good. Shirley Eaton, the girl who would end up painted gold a year later in 1964's Goldfinger, is the female lead. Lloyd Nolan, veteran actor of dozens of movies and TV shows, and no stranger to Private Eye films, having portrayed Brett Halliday's PI Mike Shayne in a series of movies, is a government agent who tries to use Hammer to further his own investigation. (Though Mike gets more use of the agent than the other way around.) Also in the film is New York Herald Tribune columnist and TV personality Hy Gardner, playing himself. He and Spillane were friends in real life and the banter between Gardner and Hammer reflects this. The only wonky performance in the movie is by the guy playing Hammer's former pal, Pat Chambers. He seems to play every scene at the same tempo, all of them rather high strung.
Watching the movie, (much of which was filmed in the UK) I was reminded once again how different the world was in the 1960s. The cars and the clothes and even the look of the buildings. An era long gone now.
Anyway, I wish someone would make a high quality DVD of The Girl Hunters. Such a print may not even exist, but the CGI boys can do wonders restoring movies these days. Would be nice to have a clean copy of this unique little film. If you want to check it out yourself, go here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TauH369twfI

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