THE GIRL HUNTERS seems to be the first, and likely the only time, that a creator portrayed his character in a film. It was a good many years back that I saw it on television and hadn’t remembered much about it other than having seen it until I stumbled across it on Youtube. Someone had posted the whole film in a single block(didn’t think that was possible because I’ve watched more than a few there and they were always in ten minute chunks). Spillane did a serviceable job as an actor(probably the attraction here was him playing Hammer anyway). Always a personality, from appearances on talk shows to his Miller Lite commercials, he infused, for me anyway, more of the book Hammer than Ralph Meeker did in Kiss Me Deadly. I enjoyed that one but Meeker’s Hammer was a bit more cynical, a bit more out for himself, though just as dogged in getting where he was headed.

The plot sticks pretty close to the novel, though it has been a good many year since I read it, as I remember.

Mike Hammer has become an alcoholic, seven years now, reduced to gutter living, because of his fiancee, Velda’s disappearance after a case goes bad. Hired to guard a rich woman and her jewels, he gets Velda to go along as a “bodyguard” that could follow a female places where he couldn’t. The gone wrong part is the woman is found dead, the jewels, Velda, and the husband gone, not seen since. Presumed dead as she would have come home if still alive.

Seven years.

The police find Hammer literally lying in a gutter and call Pat Chambers, who has an APB out on him. A man has been found shot, dying, and will only speak to Mike. Chambers and Mike hadn’t been friends in a long time, since he blames Mike for Velda’s “death” and is less than gentle with him when the cops bring him around. He wants Mike to find out what the man, unidentified, has to say before he dies. It seems the bullet taken out of him matched one that killed a Senator two years before, a Senator investigating Communist influence in American government.

When Mike goes in to see the man, who starts babbling about Velda, he asks, “You knew Velda?” and the man replies, “I Know Velda?”

Velda alive?

A Russian assassin is after her, he shot the man, and a location was left by the dying man with a newspaper dealer from Mike’s corner. If Mike doesn’t get to her first, she’ll be dead. He passes as he imparts the last details.

Mike goes cold sober in an instant. If true, he doesn’t have a lot of time. He won’t tell Pat anything, which doesn’t help his standing with his ex-friend, and goes out to find his lost fiancee. Lloyd Nolan turns up as an FBI agent looking for the dragon as well. The dead man had been an undercover agent, his protege, and he wants his killer. Again, Mike puts him off with a promise to tell him after a few days. Nolan helps, getting him a gun license , and waits, somewhat impatiently for Mike to come through, with his own promise to come down hard if Hammer doesn’t lead him to the Dragon. Alive.

Shirley Eaton plays the beautiful widow of the dead Senator. He interviews her, feels an attraction(we are talking about Mike Hammer here), and finds the news dealer murdered, the envelope still missing, continuing to plow on looking for Velda. Everything he’s heard convinces him Velda is alive and being hunted and nothing is going to stop him from finding her. Mike’s mindset is pure Spillane. Nothing and no one gets in his way, stops him, once the old bloodhound gets the scent. He’s a bit out of shape from years of alcohol abuse. Still just as tough though.

Enjoyed this one again and wouldn’t mind having it on DVD. Kind of expensive on the used sites though. In doing research, I found a restored print had been introduced at Cannes, but if a new DVD is planned, I can’t find anything on it. Would recommend watching it on Youtube if one has an interest.

For more overlooked films and such, check out Sweet Freedom, Todd Mason’s fine blog.