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My Gun Is Quick

My Gun Is Quick(1957)

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teaser My Gun Is Quick (1957)

Private eyes like Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) and Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep, 1946) look like proper gentlemen next to Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane's detective hero of I, the Jury (1953) and other pulp fiction novels. Hammer is crude, rude, and hardly virtuous in his pursuit of lawbreakers and the film versions of Spillane's novels don't bother to clean Hammer up for the screen either. His violence nature and basic misogyny are part of his character's macho appeal and are key traits in every actor's portrayal of him from Biff Elliot in I, the Jury to Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly (1955) to Robert Bray in My Gun is Quick (1957).

The latter film is probably the most obscure of the three titles and features a plot which has Hammer searching for a priceless ring that was stolen from a dead girl's finger. His investigation leads him to the waterfront home of Nancy (Whitney Blake), a wealthy divorcee who may or may not be involved in the theft.

Although Kiss Me Deadly is generally acknowledged by film scholars as the superior film in the trilogy, thanks to Meeker's intense performance and Robert Aldrich's stylish direction, My Gun is Quick might be truer in execution and design to the author's intention. Hammer's gruff, unapologetic behavior is established in the first few seconds of the film when he calls into his office to get his messages from his secretary, the ever faithful Velda, and she says, "Mike, you don't sound right." "I just crawled out of a sewer, not a decent person left in the world," he mumbles. Velda responds sympathetically, "I'm here Mike." With that, Hammer snarls, "You can stay there," and slams the phone down. And this is the way Hammer treats the only person in the entire film who seems to truly care about him.

In My Gun is Quick, Spillane's characters have nicknames like "Red" or "Shorty" or "Greaseball" and there are other appropriate touches like the scene where a down-and-out showbiz hopeful offers Mike toothpicks to prop his sleepy eyelids open. The cheap sets which alternate between a greasy spoon diner, Hammer's sparse office, and a seedy hotel room, complete with a flashing neon sign outside, perfectly capture the seedy ambiance that permeates Spillane's novels. Just as effective are the exterior scenes, shot in unfamiliar sections of Los Angeles, which convey a sense of desolation and emptiness. And while some may argue that Robert Bray's performance is stolid and unnatural, it is this artificial quality that adds to the film's effectiveness. In fact, the very artlessness of the entire production seems intentional and perfectly in keeping with Spillane's rather cold-blooded view of the world.

There have been other film adaptations of Spillane's novels; The Girl Hunters (1962) actually starred Spillane as his creation, Mike Hammer. And that wasn't his only movie appearance; you can also see Spillane in Mommy (1995), a thriller about a psychotic mom, and its sequel, Mommy 2: Mommy's Day (1997). There was also a 1982 remake of I, the Jury which featured Armand Assante as the private dick. But My Gun is Quick is a good place to start if you've never seen this low-down, unethical gumshoe in action.

Producer: Phil Victor, George White
Director: Victor Saville
Screenplay: Richard Collins, Richard Powell, Mickey Spillane (novel)
Production Design: Boris Leven
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editing: Frank Sullivan
Original Music: Marlin Skiles
Cast: Robert Bray (Mike Hammer), Whitney Blake (Nancy Williams), Donald Randolph (Colonel Holloway), Gina Core (Maria Teresa Garcia), Pamela Duncan (Velda, Hammer's secretary).

by Jeff Stafford

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