MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER ran for two seasons on CBS and starred Darren McGavin as Hammer. It seemed to be viewed as a terrible show, critics decrying the violence. McGavin said it was instantly successful. Whatever, it only lasted seventy-eight half hour episodes filmed in black and white.
Some of the writers working the show were Frank Kane, who wrote about a third of the episodes, Steven Thornley fourteen, and Evan Hunter(as Curt Cannon) even furnished two story lines, one for which Kane wrote the script. Boris Sagal was the main director, twenty-five episodes, Richard Irving the next with eleven. Some of the actors that appeared in shows were those faces that you know but can’t connect with a name. Others were Angie Dickinson, Vitto Scotti, Lorne Greene, Steve Ihnat, Anthony Caruso, H. M. Wynant, Ruta Lee, Robert Fuller, DeForest Kelly, and Len Lesser(who would have been one of those faces if he hadn’t gained some notoriety as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld), most of them in two or more roles.
The two episodes Evan Hunter provided were early in the first season, SO THAT’S WHO IT WAS and DEAD MEN DON’T DREAM. In the first, Mike had finished a long case in Chinatown and was headed home when he’s accosted by a junkie, Gus Peters, that had gave him some tips begging for money. He gives him five bucks and goes on his way. A week later he gets a call from Gus needing help, something he can’t talk about over the phone, and Mike heads back to Chinatown to see him, arriving to late as Gus had been shot to death in an alley. Worried that the police won’t care about a junkie’s death, he decides to find the killer. He learns that a prominent Chinese businessman had been knifed to death in that very same alley a couple of days before Gus was killed. He knows they have to be connected.
In DEAD MEN DON”T DREAM, Mike returns to the old neighborhood fore the funeral of a childhood friend found in front of his store with his throat cut. In questioning some of his old friends, they all seem nervous and evasive. In another store from his childhood, Pop’s, he happens to be there when a couple of hoods come in demanding the weekly fee. The old protection racket! Mike runs them out, only to find Pop dead the next day. It’s then that Mike gets serious about finding out who’s behind it all.
I haven’t watched all episodes yet, just the first six of each season and a few spotted around, but the quality seems pretty good so far. I picked the set up from classicradioandtv.com at a fairly reasonable price. What I have is the collector’s edition. While I don’t wish to be too critical, I found numerous mistakes in the packaging. Misspellings in the titles, Mere Maid becomes Metre Maid, Just Around The Coroner became Just Arounj The Corner(not my J), Scar and Garter became Scar and Gaerter(correct on the DVD, wrong on the outside packaging), and the most glaring error of them all, Darren is spelled with an I(notice in the picture) . These are just the ones I’ve caught. There may be more.
Still I think it’s worth the price.
McGavin captures the spirit of Hammer fairly well, attracted to every good looking female he meets, obstinate about keeping details to himself, violent when he needs to be. One thing I missed though was his hardware. Betsy, his M1911 army Colt is not in evidence. Not a gun expert myself, he carries a snub-nosed revolver, probably a .38(not sure though), in his shoulder holster.
I’ve enjoyed them so far.