DVD review: 'Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: The Complete Series'
Certainly Spillane’s novels about the two-fisted New York private investigator were some of the most graphically violent and sex-charged thrillers on the bookshelves of the era, starting with the 1947 multimillion seller “I, the Jury,” and director Robert Aldrich’s 1955 movie version of “Kiss Me, Deadly,” starring Ralph Meeker as a hard-as-nails Hammer, still stands as the one film version that effectively matches the grittiness and brutality of the books.
The first TV version of Hammer had a lot to live up to when it debuted in syndication in the fall of ’57, and Revue Productions (aka Universal) did its dead-level, gut-pummeling best to measure up — within the limits of TV standards and practices. Darren McGavin — perhaps best known as Ralphie’s old man in “A Christmas Story” — was far more convincing as Spillane’s shoot-to-kill gumshoe than the comparatively kinder, gentler Stacy Keach version that would reach home screens more than two decades later.
But along with the rough edges, McGavin brought a tongue-in-cheek charm to the character that made him infinitely more likable and amusing than Spillane’s original printed creation or any other film version of Hammer. All 78 episodes of the show’s two-season run are available for the first time on any video format in a 12-DVD box set from A&E Networks.
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